Professor Meredith Hawkins and the Global Diabetes Institute at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, USA, have been partnering with Professor Nihal Thomas and his Endocrinology Department at Christian Medical College Vellore for the past five years. Together, these teams have been investigating a novel, poorly understood form of diabetes known as Malnutrition-modulated Diabetes Mellitus (MMDM), or “Lean Diabetes”, which is thought to be caused by malnutrition in utero or in early childhood development. The scarce available medical literature about Lean Diabetes reports a significant burden of the disease in regions of India with a higher prevalence of malnutrition. For the past three years our teams have been collaborating to study patients with Lean Diabetes using highly sophisticated hormone infusion studies – considered the gold standard for analysis of human metabolism. Of note, CMC is the only center in India with the capacity to perform these highly involved studies, which include biopsies of fat and muscle and special imaging of liver, muscle and pancreas. The ultimate goal of this project is to generate a conclusive, comprehensive disease profile of Lean Diabetes that will help to characterize and properly manage the disease.
The collaboration between the Endocrinology Departments at Albert Einstein and CMC has been highly fruitful. Of note, the Endocrinology Department at CMC receives some of the most complex cases from around India and surrounding countries. This diverse and compelling patient population, in addition to the sophisticated technology available and the highly dedicated healthcare providers and researchers, makes CMC an ideal partner for research collaboration, healthcare capacity building, medical education, and high quality medical care delivery on a large scale. Doctors and nurses from both Einstein and CMC have engaged in a travel exchange to collaborate on research activities and to learn about the practice of medicine in different environments. The partnership between the two institutions has permitted doctors and nurses from CMC to accompany members of the Einstein team to educate providers in countries like Kenya and Thailand, where the international team has developed a special curriculum using CMC’ s diabetes management textbook, currently in its sixth edition. After completion of this current study, the two teams hope to continue to conduct diabetes-related research, as well as to pursue means of expanding institutional research capacity on a long-term basis.
Sister Mercy Inbakumari conducts a diabetes education session for elderly patients at India Home in Queens, NY during her visit to Albert Einstein College of Medicine in April 2013.