Research Themes

Diabetes

The broad aim of the Genetics Research laboratory at the Institute is to discover genes that cause or predispose to the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity are known as complex genetic diseases, meaning that there are likely to be many different genes, as well as environmental factors, that in combination cause the disease (phenotype) that we see.

Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity are known as complex genetic diseases, meaning that there are likely to be many different genes, as well as environmental factors, that in combination cause the disease (phenotype) that we see.

Epidemiology is the study of the occurrence of disease or other health related conditions or events in defined populations. The Epidemiology Unit at the Institute is working on various aspects of Diabetes epidemiology in Palestinian populations living both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

Type 2 diabetes and obesity

Diabetes and obesity have become two of the most serious threats to world health. As their toll on world health and economy grows, so does the research on how to prevent and treat them.

Diabetes is characterized by the body's inability to either produce or properly use insulin. It is influenced by genetic and environmental factors (such as obesity and lack of exercise) and affects many Palestinians (5% of the population). Conventional genetic analysis focuses on the genes that account for specific phenotypes, while traditional epidemiology is more concerned with the environmental causes and risk factors related to traits. Genetic epidemiology is an alliance of the 2 fields that focuses on both genetics, including allelic variants in different populations, and environment, in order to explain exactly how genes convey effects in different environmental contexts and to arrive at a more complete comprehension of the etiology of complex traits. The Institute has developed a sufficient critical mass of researchers to be able to study type 2 diabetes and obesity from the gene through to whole-body physiology. Our goal is to define new molecular targets that could be sites for novel pharmacology and to examine the therapeutic potential of pioneering agents acting at appropriate molecular targets.

Nutritional Epidemiology Unit

For decades it has been recognized that diet and nutrition are important in the management of people with type 2 diabetes and obesity. Now there is also evidence that a healthy and balanced diet is a key way of preventing the development of these conditions. It is still unclear, however, whether whole diets, dietary patterns or individual foods and nutrients are most associated with a person’s future risk of developing diabetes and obesity.

The research at the Institute Epidemiology Unit investigates a wide range of areas related to type 2 diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders. We run many studies looking at these areas throughout life in children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. The studies that we run provide data that feeds into all of our research areas so as analysis can be carried out by experts in particular fields of research.

The specific objectives of our research are to:

  • Strategies for preventing type 2 diabetes, obesity and their related complications
  • Understand the key determinants of dietary behavior.
  • Develop and use improved methods to assess diet
  • The effect of physical activity on type 2 diabetes and obesity
  • Study the relationship between diet and nutrition and the risk of developing diabetes and obesity 

We are also examining the effects of eating habits or dietary behaviours on the risk of diabetes and obesity. We have reported that the risk of weight gain over time can be reduced by re-distributing the proportion of daily calories consumed at various stages of the day. By consuming the greater proportion of calories earlier in the day (eating breakfast), with a lower proportion of calories consumed later in the day, the risk of weight gain can be reduced. In new studies we are collecting information to assess the impact of snacking and eating outside of the home. We are also working with colleagues to understand the key determinants of dietary behaviour, and investigate how such determinants may modify the association between diet and disease. 

A large proportion of the Institute's research program is made possible by grants, many of which are through USDA programs. Although dissemination of information generated from all of these projects occurs, some entail strong extension components. Likewise, there are projects listed in our international section that entail significant research components.

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