As OU faculty work to develop diabetes treatment alternative, students fight for a more diabetic-friendly campus

By Kelly Fisher, staff writer

A research team within the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine has announced that in pre-clinical trials, a drug they developed proved successful at halting the onset of diabetes, which they say could change the way we treat the disease entirely.

The drug, known as C-10, blocks certain pathways common in autoimmune-inflammatory disorders, such as diabetes, that are typically not targeted in the use of other medications.

The study is funded primarily by grants from OU’s diabetes institute, the J.O Watson Endowed Chair and the National Institute of Health. It has not yet been published, as the research team is still awaiting clinical trials, said Kelly McCall, associate professor of endocrinology who worked on the study.

Because C-10 “has a different mechanism of action,” McCall said, the drug is unique and could have a significant impact on how we treat both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The researchers have tested C-10 extensively in both types and believe it to be effective in both.

People with diabetes typically have to monitor blood glucose (sugar) levels; those who have Type 1 diabetes must use insulin, a “naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pancreas,” while those who have Type 2 diabetes might use other prescribed medications instead of or in addition to insulin, or might be able to manage it with healthy eating and exercise alone, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Factors that can make a person’s blood glucose levels fluctuate include too many or not enough carbohydrates, lack of physical activity, alcohol, side effects from other medications and stress, among others.

In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, just under 10 percent of the population, were reported to have diabetes, according to the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report.

It remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, but the report claims that it “may be underreported as a cause of death. (because) studies have found that only about 35 to 40 percent of people with diabetes who died had diabetes listed anywhere on the death certificate and about 10 to 15 percent had it listed as the underlying cause of death.”

One of McCall’s colleagues and co-researchers on the study, Frank Schwartz, professor of endocrinology, J.O. Watson Diabetes Research Chair and director of Ohio University Diabetes/Endocrine Diseases Biorepository, had released a study a few years ago regarding diabetes prevalence in the Appalachian region, which McCall said has “one of highest prevalence (rates) in the entire country.”

The study, titled ‘High Self-Reported Prevalence of Diabetes Mellitus, Heart Disease and Stroke in 11 Counties of Rural Appalachian Ohio,’ was conducted in 2009 and duplicated a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) phone survey done in 2004. It was managed by the Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development at OU.

Results proved that the self-reported prevalence in the area had significantly increased in that five-year period from 7.8 percent in aggregate Ohio to 11.3 percent in Appalachian Ohio. The national rate was 7.2 percent.

Athens County had reported 6.7 percent, the lowest percentage, while Perry County had reported the highest percentage of 14.2 percent.

The data collected in 2009 suggested that lower economic status is strongly linked to obesity and health problems that it causes, like diabetes, as stated in the conclusion of the report. Although it did not attribute anything to a lack of education, some OU students are working to ensure that people are aware of the situation.

DOSES spreads awareness for diabetes. -- Photo provided by Charles Riley.
DOSES spreads awareness for diabetes. — Photo provided by Charles Riley.

Last April, a student organization called Diabetes Outreach, Support and Education for Students, or DOSES, formed to raise diabetes awareness and become a more ‘diabetes friendly’ campus as a whole.

“My endocrinologist approached me about starting a club, so it’s kind of where the DOSES thing started from, but I’ve always had an interest in diabetes,” DOSES President Charles Riley said.

Riley, a pre-professional nutrition major, found our nearly seven years ago that he is a

DOSES spreads awareness about diabetes. -- Photo provided by Charles Riley.
DOSES spreads awareness about diabetes. — Photo provided by Charles Riley.

Type 1 diabetic; however, he said the transition was not difficult because he already ate nutritiously and worked out, but had to adjust to checking his blood sugar and taking shots.

McCall and her research team believe that C-10 will be helpful to Type 1 diabetics, such as Riley, as well as Type 2 diabetics.

“We started a study over the summer, and what we found was people have a general knowledge of diabetes as a whole, but they don’t have an understanding of Type 1 versus Type 2, and how you treat both types. But everyone kind of got the gist: you can’t eat whatever you want (and) if you do, you have to take insulin…” Riley said. “There’s a general consensus of what diabetes is, but not the specifics of it.”

Riley wasn’t sure how many students total face diabetes at OU, but said that there are between 20 and 30 students who have diabetes in DOSES. The group has 85 people on their mailing list and approximately 25 that Riley considers to be active members.

The club’s next big goal is to be able to send some of their members to the American Diabetes Association in Boston this June, for which the Diabetes Institute of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is helping them raise money.

Other things on their radar include researching new technology to track the user’s blood pressure by plugging into a smartphone for the ‘on-the-go’ college student, and  putting nutritional information pamphlets in the dining halls including a monthly diabetes clinic at Hudson in which attendees can ask questions. Riley said the university is working on providing the pamphlets and has provided many other diabetes resources,

Ultimately, Riley said he wants DOSES to help brand OU as the most diabetes-friendly campus in the nation.


Kelly is a junior who cannot believe she is already more than halfway done with her time in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Aside from College Green, she spends her time writing for OU’s College of Health Sciences and Professions and working on the Young African Leaders Initiative through the Institute for International Journalism…

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