Every day in the lab, Melanie Shapiro works to answer questions about a disease that has impacted her own life since she was 5.
As the recipient of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases F31 fellowship, she studies a set of hormones called insulin-like growth factors, measuring their potential as biomarkers to predict Type 1 diabetes before a patient develops the disease. Shapiro says she’s felt driven to understand Type 1 diabetes since she was a teen with a budding interest in science.
“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 5. When I was a teenager, my parents would clip out news articles about potential cures for Type 1 that never happened. It made me want to understand why these promising findings didn’t translate from mice models to humans,” she says.
Shapiro says measuring a patient’s levels of insulin-like growth factors could be used as a future alternative to the current standard of oral glucose tolerance testing, which draws a patient’s blood four times over three hours. Since coming to UF and beginning her research, Shapiro’s found something she’s searched for since childhood: a community of like-minded people searching for answers in diabetes.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience interacting with other people with Type 1 while I was growing up. UF has an amazing Type 1 diabetes center. A lot of my coworkers, lab technicians and the students I’ve mentored have diabetes. It’s beyond a support system; it’s a group of people who want to understand the mechanisms behind how diabetes develops and use that knowledge to help others affected by the disease,” she says.