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Our Biggest Health Challenges
Diabetes affects 30 million American adults and children. People with the type 1 form of diabetes have an autoimmune disorder and are unable to produce sufficient amounts of the hormone insulin, which is made by the pancreas. NIH research contributed to development of a “bionic pancreas,” which connects a smartphone app to a small implanted sensor-pump system that measures blood sugar every 5 minutes and delivers insulin when needed.
The vast majority of Americans with diabetes have the type-2 form of the disorder, in which the body does not manage its insulin levels correctly. Genetics research has identified more than 80 heritable risk factors, but NIH research has shown that lifestyle changes, such as diet and physical activity, can significantly lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in high-risk adults.
NIH-funded technological advances offer much promise. For example, using electronic health records and genomic data, scientists have identified what appear to be three distinct subtypes of type 2 diabetes. Since each may cause different health complications such as blindness, cancer, or high blood pressure, this information should eventually help doctors provide individualized treatment.
Universal Flu Vaccine
Influenza, or “the flu,” is for many a seasonal nuisance, but for others it is a serious health threat. Each year, the flu causes thousands of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States and costs the U.S. economy about $87 billion. NIH scientists are currently testing various potential methods to create a universal flu vaccine — designed to produce broad protection against virtually all strains of the flu for extended periods of time. A promising approach has been to identify and target molecular portions of the flu virus that don’t change from year to year. A universal flu vaccine may avert the need for annual flu shots, as well as reduce the risk of a global pandemic.
This page last reviewed on November 16, 2023