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John Buse, MD, PhD, will lead the UNC-Chapel Hill site for a collaborative NIH research effort to discover new forms of diabetes, understand their differences, and identify their causes.

UNC-Chapel Hill is participating in a nationwide study funded by the National Institutes of Health that will seek 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 the UNC School of Medicine 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.

Leading the study at UNC-Chapel Hill is John Buse, MD, PhD, the Verne S. Caviness Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Director of the UNC Diabetes Center, and Director of the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute. “This is such an exciting project,” he said, “Studying people with unusual forms of diabetes that run in families holds the promise of potentially developing better treatments for their families and for everyone afflicted with diabetes.

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

The University of South Florida is the study’s coordinating center, led by Jeffrey Krischer, PhD, director of the Health Informatics Institute at USF.

“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,” said Krischer. “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.”

Lead centers for the study are Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of Chicago. The Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 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, North Carolina

Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pennsylvania

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, Tennessee

Washington University in St. Louis

The study opened recruitment on September 30, 2020 for people with atypical diabetes or a form of diabetes that seems different from known types of diabetes. Visit for more information on the study and how to join.

Support for the study is provided through NIDDK grants U54DK118638 and U54DK118612.

UNC contact: Mark Derewicz, 919-923-0959