Barrow Neurosurgeon Awarded Prestigious NIH Grant for Diabetes Research

Zaman Mirzadeh, MD, PhD, an assistant professor and a neurosurgeon-scientist at Barrow Neurological Institute, has been named a recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award.

The New Innovator Award, established in 2007, is one of four grant mechanisms supported by the NIH through its High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which awarded 85 total grants this year. This program encourages applicants to think “outside the box” and to pursue trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH’s mission to advance knowledge and enhance health.

Dr. Mirzadeh received the New Innovator Award for his research on the use of central nervous system (CNS) targeted therapies for diabetes treatment. He is studying whether the brain can be rewired to normalize blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

“The breadth of innovative science put forth by the 2020 cohort of early career and seasoned investigators is impressive and inspiring,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “I am confident that their work will propel biomedical and behavioral research and lead to improvements in human health.”

Diabetes afflicts over 30 million Americans, corresponding to nearly 10% of the general population and accounting for over $320 billion per year in healthcare costs—among the most common and costly diseases in modern society. To exacerbate the problem, despite over 40 new diabetes drugs being introduced since 2005, there has not been a concomitant improvement in treatment outcomes for patients with type 2 diabetes.

Mounting evidence suggests that the brain plays a key role in the control of the body’s blood glucose level. Recent studies suggest that defects in this brain control system may be the fundamental problem underlying type 2 diabetes. Dr. Mirzadeh’s studies focus on understanding how wiring is controlled in these brain areas that regulate blood sugar and metabolism, how this wiring is affected in type 2 diabetes, and how strategies aimed at rewiring these areas may induce lasting remission of the disease.

“For too long we have been exclusively focused on the pancreas and insulin-dependent control of blood glucose,” said Dr. Mirzadeh. “I am honored to receive this award, and I am grateful that the federal government sees value in our research and is willing to invest in strategies that may actually address the root of the problem in type 2 diabetes.”