UH med school establishes diabetes center with $11.2M federal grant

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii-based research into diabetes is getting a major boost thanks to an $11.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

With that money, the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine has established the Center for Biomedical Research Excellence on Diabetes.

"This particular grant while it might not provide patient care or a cure that we can offer in a year or two, it's helping us understand the underlying cause, the root cause of type two diabetes," said Dr. Marjorie Mau, an endocrinologist and deputy director of the diabetes center.

One in 9 people in Hawaii have diabetes and more than 22.4 percent of Native Hawaiians have the disease.

"So we have investigators. They are doing clinical studies looking at pre-diabetics and non-diabetics and studying their white blood cells looking at the genetic changes for Hawaiians and Pacific islanders and that's not being done on the mainland," said Marina Gerchenson, director of the diabetes center.

Researchers say diabetes risk also increases as people age.

Men are at higher risk because they don't go to the doctor as often as women and there are many cases of children on the verge of the disease.

"There is a problem of excess weight in our children," Mau said. "There are now a number of cases our youth with an on-set of pre-diabetes right around the time of puberty."

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.