Boshell Research Program
Bringing Together Faculty in the Fight Against Diabetes
The U.S. recognizes National Diabetes Month every November, and Auburn University scientists are devoted year-round to researching this debilitating disease that affects one in 10 Americans.
Auburn’s Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research Program has 54 faculty members from 10 academic units across campus researching causes and treatments for diabetes and obesity-related health issues, principally focusing on the cardiac, neurological and metabolic aspects.
“We have excellent faculty seeking to improve the lives of all people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” said Professor Robert Judd, chair of the Boshell program and head of the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our research will help people and pets, as dogs and cats can suffer from diabetes.”
Diabetes and obesity are associated with serious health conditions, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma and musculoskeletal disease.
“We have strong interdisciplinary collaborations among professors who are researching the prevention, cure and management of diabetes and its complications,” Judd said. “We actively work together at Auburn and with faculty at other institutions to study the parallel epidemics of obesity and diabetes.”
Auburn’s program was established in 2001 through an endowment from the Birmingham-based Diabetes Trust Fund in honor of its founder, Dr. Buris R. Boshell, a 1947 graduate of Auburn, then Alabama Polytechnic Institute.
The Boshell program is also home to the Jim Fyffe Diabetes Research Fund that helps support graduate students conducting diabetes research projects. Fyffe was a longtime Auburn football announcer who died in 2003 due to complications from diabetes.
According to 2020 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes. Another 88 million adults are prediabetic, pushing the total number of those in danger of being afflicted with the disease to more than 122 million, or nearly one in every three people.
Examples of Auburn’s diabetes research can be found campus-wide and include some of Auburn’s most prestigious labs and renowned researchers.
The Boshell program also hosts an annual Boshell Research Day that brings in fellow researchers from around the country to share their research and develop new collaborations. The 13th annual event was held in September 2021, with more than 175 scientists and supporters participating.
Boshell Researchers Across Auburn
Rajesh Amin, Associate Professor, Drug Discovery and Development, Harrison School of Pharmacy
Amin’s research is focused on drug discovery for metabolic-related diseases, including energy dysregulation associated with Alzheimer’s disease and liver disease.
Chris Easley, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Sciences and Mathematics
Easley is leading a research team seeking to enhance biological measuring capabilities to better understand diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Emily Graff, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine
Graff’s lab is looking at ways to help obese cats and humans. She says there are many similarities between human and feline obesity, such as insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis (fatty liver), reduced life span and cancer.
Michael Greene, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, College of Human Sciences
Greene’s research is focused on metabolic diseases associated with obesity, including liver disease and colon cancer. The work in his laboratory spans from performing whole-body metabolism studies to RNA sequencing analysis.
Ramesh Jeganathan, Professor, Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, College of Human Sciences
Jeganathan’s research is focused on investigating the molecular links between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, emphasizing aspects that have potential clinical significance.
Robert Judd, Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine
Judd’s research is focused on the impact of obesity on adipose tissue physiology and how this newly recognized endocrine organ becomes dysfunctional during obesity development. In collaborative studies with Amol Suryawanshi of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Joseph Brewer of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Judd is expanding his research into the immunology of adipose tissue.
Amarjit Mishra, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine
Mishra aims to understand more about the regulatory pathways involved in airway inflammation. The Laboratory of Lung Inflammation, led by Mishra, is also interested in metabolic cues that coordinate immune cell activation and differentiation.
Ya-Xiong Tao, Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine
Tao is studying naturally occurring mutations in two receptors expressed in the brain, melanocortin-3 and melanocortin-4 receptors. His studies are seeking a better understanding of obesity from a genetic standpoint, and potential therapeutics of monogenic obesity.
Geetha Thangiah, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, College of Human Sciences
Thangiah is studying disparities in childhood obesity between African Americans and the white population, with the long-term goal of improving the health of minorities by identifying appropriate interventions.