Dr. Karin Bornfeldt, professor of medicine (Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition) and pathology, has received an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for her R35 project “Identifying new strategies for prevention of cardiovascular complications of diabetes.”

The Outstanding Investigator Award will support Bornfeldt’s NHLBI research program for seven years, with cumulative funding of more than $7.2 million over the award’s duration. 

"The ability to spend 7 years of uninterrupted research on this topic will be very meaningful because we will have the freedom to pursue research directions most likely to benefit patients," said Bornfeldt.

Dr. Karin BornfeldtBornfeldt serves as Director of the Diabetes Complications Program and Associate Director for Research of the UW Medicine Diabetes Institute; as Deputy Director of the Diabetes Research Center (DRC) for which she also directs a core facility (the Vector and Transgenic Mouse Core); and as Director on a T32 training grant in Nutrition, Obesity and Atherosclerosis. 

She also serves as Associate Editor of three journals - Circulation Research, Diabetes, and the Journal of Lipid Research, and as Consulting Editor of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Her career has been devoted to the discovery of mechanisms whereby diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction and stroke), with the goal of discovering new treatment and prevention strategies for the rapidly growing population of people with diabetes worldwide. 

Work in her lab led to the development of a transgenic mouse model of type 1 diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis (the vascular plaques responsible for cardiovascular disease). By using this model, her group showed that diabetes accelerates both early and advanced atherosclerosis. 

Recently, her group has expanded its studies in the area of translational human research. 

In a recent study, they combined human translational studies and the mouse model to show that serum apolipoprotein C3 (APOC3), which prevents clearance of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, predicts coronary artery events in people with type 1 diabetes independently of traditional risk factors, and that inhibition of APOC3 in the mouse model of type 1 diabetes prevents the effects of diabetes on atherosclerosis. 

Their data indicated that APOC3 might be particularly important as a cardiovascular disease risk factor in diabetes because it is regulated by insulin, and that APOC3 and other proteins in its pathway are promising targets for treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes.

The Outstanding Investigator Awards are intended for investigators who have an outstanding record of research with contributions to NHLBI’s research objectives. Co-investigators are Drs. Jay Heinecke, Baohai Shao, and Jenny Kanter.

"It’s a fantastic honor to receive this award from the NHLBI," said Bornfeldt. "The award will allow me and my group to dig deeper into fundamental questions about the mechanisms whereby diabetes promotes cardiovascular disease and how to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with diabetes."