Fighting the greatest health threat to the Western world


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Dr. David Stepp and Dr. Yanbin Dong are tasked with leading the Georgia Health Sciences University's efforts to fight what many believe is the greatest health threat to the Western world: obesity.

"We're living large, in more ways than one," said Dr. Stepp, an associate professor in the Department of Physiology at MCG's Vascular Biology Center.

He and Dr. Dong, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute, have been named co-directors of the Diabetes & Obesity Discovery Institute, which aims to unlock some of the biological and behavioral markers of obesity and diabetes - two conditions that often lead to a host of other adult diseases.

Strengthening collaboration between basic scientists and clinicians may create interventional therapies that go a step beyond traditional treatment options, which so far have been unable to keep up with the growing epidemic.

"The effort put into reducing weight in obese individuals has been enormous, but the returns have not been optimal," Dr. Dong points out. "We acknowledge it's difficult to lose weight once you get big, but there are things that can be done to improve or maintain your cardiovascular health and your pancreatic function."

The team will draw on biomarker data from the GPI and other clinical resources to run genetic tests in mice in the pursuit of identifying new mechanisms of disease and new pathways for intervention.

The co-directors are coordinating their multidisciplinary team, which will focus on the causes and complications of type 1 and 2 diabetes and the non-diabetic causes and complications of obesity.