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March 8, 2018

Neuroscience alumnus John Campbell receives American Diabetes Association research grant

John Campbell, PhD’12 (NEUS), who received a $1.625 million grant from the American Diabetes Association

Neuroscience alumnus John Campbell, PhD’12 (NEUS), who received a $1.625 million grant from the American Diabetes Association to support innovative diabetes research.

Alumnus John N. Campbell, PhD’12 (NEUS), is one of six recipients of the 2018 Pathway to Stop Diabetes grants awarded by the American Diabetes Association. Campbell received a $1.625 million Pathway Initiator Award for his basic research project titled, “Molecular and Functional Taxonomy of Vagal Motor Neurons,” which seeks to identify the precise brain cells governing hunger, digestion and glucose metabolism.

“I am incredibly honored and excited to be part of the next generation of ADA Pathway scientists,” says Campbell, who now serves as an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “With the support of this ADA Pathway award, we’ll be able to greatly advance our understanding of how the brain controls digestion and glucose metabolism, areas of keen interest to diabetes medicine. I cannot imagine a better start to this research program, or to my career as a neuroscientist.”

Campbell works in the lab of Bradford B. Lowell, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “It’s a huge honor,” Lowell says. “These grants are incredibly competitive and hard to get.”

As part of his project, Campbell and his colleagues are working to generate what they call a “parts list for the brain.” They seek to catalog the different cell types and neuron subtypes that make up the brain, study how these parts differ from one another and how they connect to control behavior and physiology.

Campbell’s project focuses on region of the brain called the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, a region that connects the brain to visceral organs including the stomach and pancreas via the vagus nerve and controls digestion and glucose metabolism.

“Previous studies suggest that neurons in the DMV are organized into functional units which innervate different organs and play distinct roles in organ physiology,” Campbell says. “And yet, there’s been no way to identify and specifically access these functional units in order to learn more about them. With the support of the ADA Pathway to Stop Diabetes award, our study aims to shed light on how this important brain-body interface works and potentially reveal new molecular targets for treating diabetes and diabetic gastroparesis.”

Now in its fifth year, the Pathway to Stop Diabetes research grants awards a total of $9.75 million to six scientists over a five- to seven-year grant term to spur breakthroughs in fundamental diabetes science, technology, diabetes care and potential cures. Since its launch in 2013, Pathway has awarded more than $47 million to 29 leading scientists selected from a highly competitive applicant pool of only one nominee per institution.

“We are thrilled to welcome the six newest recipients of Pathway awards into this elite group of researchers who continue to make extraordinary contributions to diabetes care,” says Silvia Corvera, M.D., chair of the ADA’s Mentor Advisory Group and professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. “This unique funding model creates unmatched opportunities for scientists to impact the lives of millions of people living with or at risk for diabetes.”

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Updated: 04/29/2016