We are pleased to announce the NORC Affiliate Investigator Spotlight series. The purpose of the Spotlight is to facilitate connections and collaborations among Affiliate Investigators across our large and geographically distributed community. On a bimonthly basis, we will feature a UW NORC Affiliate Investigator, highlighting their background and scientific research. Thanks to Dr. Luke Wander at the VA Puget Sound for kicking us off!
September NORC Affiliate Investigator Spotlight: Luke Wander
I am a general internist and epidemiologist with post-doctoral training in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and perinatal epidemiology. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine (General Internal Medicine) and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology. I am also an affiliate faculty member in the UW Center for Excellence in Maternal and Child Care. My clinical work is as a hospitalist at the VA Puget Sound.
This year, we have been studying the bidirectional relationship between SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and diabetes. Using electronic health record data, we are examining associations between medication use (including glucose-lowering medications and statins) and outcomes after COVID-19. We have also examined whether co-morbid cardiovascular disease mediates the association of diabetes with adverse outcomes after COVID-19. (The short answer is yes, but only a small proportion of the association. The contribution of mechanisms such as hyperglycemia and/or metabolic decompensation at presentation, altered inflammatory responses, and increased coagulation activity all need to be examined.) On the flip side, we are also using EHR data to ask questions about the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 infection and new-onset diabetes.
Another area that my group is working in involves microRNAs (miRNAs). MiRNAs are small segments of non-coding RNA that regulate gene expression. They can also be measured in the circulation. I am interested in using circulating miRNAs to understand mechanisms of T2D pathogenesis across the life course, including T2D in youth and in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. We have investigated levels of circulating miRNAs to understand how they might contribute to diabetes incidence and/or progression in a variety of populations. In Japanese-American adults, we identified a list of circulating miRNAs that precede development of diabetes by 5–10 years, including miRNAs that control insulin secretion and apoptosis in the beta cell. One example is miR-7, which blocks multiple steps in the mTOR pathway in the beta cell. We have also identified plasma miRNAs that may be prospectively related to the progression of beta-cell failure among youth with T2D. One is predicted to regulate expression of Bcl-2 like 1 and islet amyloid polypeptide. To our knowledge they have never been studied in the endocrine pancreas, so we have a project ongoing to examine effects of these miRNAs on cell viability, insulin secretion, and levels of protein expression. In collaboration with other NORC investigators, we are currently looking at miRNAs that are related to insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS. Finally, we are interested in the use of circulating miRNAs as predictive biomarkers of diabetes risk and are conducting a study to validate the use of plasma miRNAs in the prediction of treatment failure among youth with T2D.
NORC services that I have used in my recent research projects include: 1) use of NORC research study coordination for participant recruitment and sample collection; and 2) consultation with the NORC Biostatistics Subcore on grant preparation and analyses of metabolomics data.
To learn more about Dr. Wander’s research publications, click here.