People to Know 2014: Stephen Parker, PhD
Scientists know there are certain genetic factors that determine a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes. The big question: Exactly what controls these genes, and how do they act? That’s what Stephen Parker hopes to find out.
Parker, a former National Institutes of Health researcher and current professor at the University of Michigan, is one of five winners of the American Diabetes Association’s Pathway to Stop Diabetes awards. And he plans to put the funding to good use, conducting research that may, one day, help scientists discover how our genes contribute to type 2 diabetes.
In an effort to understand how people’s DNA makes them more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, Parker is studying regions outside the gene called regulatory elements. These are regions that tell the genes what to do. He’s hoping to identify these hidden elements, link them to the genes they control, and in doing so determine how the regulatory elements affect type 2 risk.
The ultimate goal, of course, is a way to better treat diabetes. “These types of experiments are going to inform how novel therapeutics can be made,” Parker says. Which means your future type 2 medication may be able to trace its roots back to Parker’s lab.
C. Ronald Kahn, MD, is a lauded researcher and chairman of the American Diabetes Association’s Pathway to Stop Diabetes Mentor Advisory Group. He’s a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief academic officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center’s board.