Dr. Shannon Wallet, associate professor in the Department of Foundational Sciences at the ECU School of Dental Medicine, studies the communication of the immune system in her quest to understand diabetes. Along with her own research, she mentors student researchers. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

Understanding Diabetes

School of Dental Medicine researcher receives grant to study diabetes

After 20 years in diabetes research, Dr. Shannon Wallet believes that the key to addressing Type 1 diabetes is to understand the immune system processes that lead to the disease.
 
Wallet, an associate professor in foundational sciences at the ECU School of Dental Medicine, will continue unraveling these mysteries, with a recent $357,382 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“This area of research is important as it is becoming clear that Type 1 diabetes is not a singular disease, but rather a classification of diseases whose clinical outcomes are similar,” said Wallet. “Thus, the mechanisms which result in the signs and symptoms are extremely complicated and extraordinarily different.”

Millions of people around the world live with diabetes, and it’s extremely prevalent in North Carolina. The condition affects how the body uses blood sugar, or glucose, to fuel the cells. In Type 1 diabetes, the rarer form of the disease, the body fails to produce insulin—a hormone the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the muscles, tissue and brain cells—because the immune system has destroyed the cells that make insulin. This results in the buildup of glucose in the bloodstream and is known as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.

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Originally published Feb. 4, 2019.

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