People to Know: David Cummings, MD
After gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that promotes weight loss, type 2 diabetes has a mysterious tendency to suddenly resolve itself in around 80 percent of patients. That's before the surgery even has had a chance to bring about any significant weight loss. No one can yet explain the phenomenon, but David Cummings, MD, is breaking new ground delving into the science behind the mystery and exploring surgical solutions for people with diabetes.
David is a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle who has studied obesity, weight loss, and blood glucose regulation for over 15 years. While researching how the body changes after gastric bypass, he discovered a drop in the hormone ghrelin that may partially explain the normalization of blood glucose. David continues to search for additional factors in this transformation. His hope is to someday capture surgery's benefits in a pill, allowing people with type 2 diabetes to enjoy dramatic blood glucose benefits without going under the knife.
Another area of David's research is asking hard questions about which people are good candidates for invasive surgical procedures typically reserved for the extremely obese. In a recent study, David showed that gastric bypass surgery improves blood glucose and is relatively safe in less-obese people with type 2 diabetes (those with body mass indexes between 30 and 35).
Then again, some people with type 2 diabetes are already at a healthful weight, so David is exploring surgical procedures that improve diabetes but without the weight loss. He's homing in on the parts of the digestive tract that have a role in post-surgical diabetes remission. These obscure areas may hold the key to a cure.
—Erika Gebel, PhD, is an associate editor at Diabetes Forecast.