Research Programs

Addressing Issues, Solving Problems

At the forefront of advancing research toward a cure

HHDC researchers and clinicians have brought in more than $100 million in outside grant funding over the last decade to OUHSC from agencies such as the NIH, Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Heart Association, and others.

HHDC research programs span diverse disciplines and are primarily focused on examining the causes and complications of diabetes to help identify better or new prevention strategies, treatments, and ultimately a cure for diabetes.

Key HHDC research programs include:

  • Causes and prevention of diabetic complications -- Many people with diabetes develop other life-altering, and often fatal, diseases directly caused by diabetes, including heart disease, kidney failure, and diabetic eye disease.  Several of the center’s basic research groups examine what causes these devastating diabetes complications, and how to prevent them.
  • Fetal and childhood origins of obesity and diabetes -- The development of many adult diseases, including adult-onset type 2 diabetes, can be influenced by factors present before birth, while a child is still in their mother’s womb, as well as throughout early childhood years.  Several NIH grants are underway at HHDC examining the increased risk of infants born to mothers with diabetes, and the mechanisms involved in the development of type 2 diabetes in these infants later in life. The goal of these studies is to define the pathways that lead to this, knowledge that will help result in the development of preventative measures.
  • Genetic causes of diabetes -- It is unclear how genetics may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.  Several NIH grants are examining how genetics may influence that ability of an individual to develop type 2 diabetes.  In addition, several grants are exploring why and how children whose parents have diabetes are genetically predisposed to developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Diabetes in Native Americans -- Obesity and type 2 diabetes affects Native Americans disproportionately when compared to all other ethnic groups, with almost half eventually developing diabetes and related complications.  Several NIH studies have resulted from collaborative partnerships with tribal nations across the state, aimed at better understanding the relationship between Native Americans and the high incidence of diabetes.
  • Role of physical activity in diabetes development and management -- An important contributing factor to the development of diabetes is the trend towards a more sedentary lifestyle.  Several studies at HHDC involve measuring how different people respond to a variety of exercise programs and dietary changes, as well as the development of incentives and strategies to encourage physical activity.
  • Diabetes-related blindness and vision decline -- New therapies and techniques are being tested and developed that have the potential of stopping diabetes-related blindness and vision.  One study is developing a therapeutic treatment for diabetes-related eye diseases, while another is focusing on promoting early detection through a newly developed retina screening device.

Translating research discoveries into advanced patient care

The new knowledge emanating from our research programs is being translated into improved patient care by the clinical team at HHDC. HHDC has the largest group of adult and pediatric endocrinologists in the state and region focusing on diabetes specialty care, as well as a comprehensive team of certified diabetes educators, dieticians, nutritionists, behavioral health specialists, exercise physiologists, and more. As part of OU Physicians, the state’s largest physician group encompassing almost every adult and child specialty, patients at HHDC have access to the variety of other specialty care often needed to prevent and treat diabetes-related complications.

Learn about the center's Membership program

Photo: Dr. David Fields investigates the effect of breast milk on infant growth and the risk for diabetes later in life. He is the recent recipient of a $3.5 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health.