Researchers Aim to Discover and Demystify Rare Forms of Diabetes

Picture of Jeffrey Krischer standing in a IT computer room

RADIANT study chair and Director of the USF Health Informatics Institute Jeffrey Krischer stands in the data center housing diabetes patients’ records. [Photo: USF Health]

THE USF HEALTH MORSANI COLLEGE of Medicine’s Health Informatics Institute is coordinating a nationwide study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that seeks to discover the cause of several unusual forms of diabetes. For years, doctors and researchers have been stymied by cases of diabetes that differ from known types. Through research efforts at USF and 19 other U.S. research institutions, the study aims to discover new forms of diabetes, understand what makes them different, and identify their causes.

The Rare and Atypical Diabetes Network, or RADIANT, plans to screen about 2,000 people with unknown or atypical forms of diabetes that do not fit the common features of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

A person with atypical diabetes may be diagnosed and treated for type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but not have a history or signs consistent with their diagnosis. For example, they may be diagnosed and treated for type 2 diabetes but may not have any of the typical risk factors for this diagnosis, such as being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, or being diagnosed as an adult. Alternately, a person with atypical diabetes may respond differently than expected to the standard diabetes treatments.

“With help from participants and their families, we aim to develop a comprehensive description of the genetic and clinical characteristics of these rare forms of diabetes,” says RADIANT study chair and coordinating center director Jeffrey Krischer, director of the USF Health Informatics Institute and a professor in the Morsani College of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine. “This information could help to establish new diagnostic criteria for diabetes, find new markers for screening, or identify drug targets for new therapies that could ultimately bring precision medicine to diabetes.”

RADIANT researchers will build a comprehensive resource of genetic, clinical and descriptive data on previously unidentified forms of diabetes for the scientific and health-care communities.

The study’s researchers will collect detailed health information using questionnaires, physical exams, genetic sequencing, blood samples and other tests. People found to have unknown forms of diabetes may receive additional testing. Some participant family members may also be invited to take part in the study.

“It’s extremely frustrating for people with atypical diabetes when their diabetes seems so different and difficult to manage,” says the study’s project scientist, Dr. Christine Lee of NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Through RADIANT, we want to help patients and the broader health-care community by finding and studying new types of diabetes to shed light on how and why diabetes can vary so greatly.”

USF is the study’s coordinating center, and the lead centers include Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of Chicago. The Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and Baylor serve as the genomic sequencing centers for the project. University of Florida, Gainesville, provides the study’s laboratory services. Other participating centers are:

  • Columbia University, New York City
  • Duke University, Durham, N.C.
  • Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa.
  • Indiana University, Indianapolis
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • NorthShore University Health System, Chicago
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital
  • SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, Brooklyn
  • University of Colorado, Denver
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • University of Washington, Seattle
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Washington University in St. Louis