Diabetic smokers face greater risks

By Andre Karimloo

Research by students and professors at Cal Poly Pomona garnered
national attention when findings were released regarding the
dangers of smoking while suffering from diabetes.

Time Magazine, US News and World Report, CBS News and medical
sites, including Web MD, are among the outlets that covered the

The amount of coverage the research received at a national level
was gratifying for Professor Sean Liu and his collaborator on the
project, Professor John Chan.

“It’s really a satisfying feeling to see your research may have
some impact on people,” said Liu.

The study uncovered details explaining why smokers with diabetes
experience a greater risk for having serious health problems,
compared to those who do not suffer from the disease.

The professors discovered that nicotine, the main toxin found in
cigarettes, increases the levels of hemoglobin A1c in the blood,
especially in diabetic smokers.

Hemoglobin A1c is a sugar conjugate of regular hemoglobin. When
tested, the A1c can indicate the amount of sugar in the blood from
the past three months.

It is a diagnostic indicator of diabetes, an indicator in
diabetic control, and linked to diabetic complications.

Human blood samples were taken and mixed with nicotine,
resulting in a dramatic increase in the levels of A1c.

Liu said for every 1 percent of A1c that was increased, there
was about a 40 percent jump in the risk of diabetic complications,
Liu said.

The findings, which represent two years of work, were presented
to the American Chemical Society.

“It was very exciting,” said Liu, “a very positive, interesting
experience. I first gave a summary about the research and answered
some questions.”

The mainly student-based research is still ongoing and a joint
venture by the Chemistry and Biological Sciences Departments on

How the two departments work together on the project is a major
part of the research being a success so far.

“We encourage the whole campus to collaborate more,” said Chan.
“Collaboration is very significant to help both sets of

The study was done with the hope of opening some eyes to
nicotine’s role in the diabetic process said Liu.

It could be seen as a way for smokers to quit altogether.

“If we understand the mechanism of it, that means we can think
of ways to prevent it, to reverse it, to control it,” said Liu.
“Hopefully people become more aware of that, and it gives them more
motivation to quit smoking, especially for diabetic smokers.”

On campus, the attention given to the research may have been
slight at first, but slowly the CPP community has caught on.

Katherine Kantardjieff, chair of the chemistry department; Don
Hoyt, Associate Vice President of Research; and Provost Marten
denBoer have all shown support for the project.

Liu and Chan hope that with the attention the research is
getting, the internally funded project will see a boost in
resources to help with future endeavors.

“Directly or indirectly, this will encourage the administration
to put more money to help the students have more opportunities to
do research,” said Chan. “Because of that, they will have more
initiative, or a desire to put resources for people like us who
like to help students do research.”

Looking to the future, Liu said studies on animals are possible
as research keeps on going. Also, studies at the molecular level to
discover underlying details of the workings of nicotine and A1c are
likely next steps.

“We need funding, we are really looking for funding for this
important research to continue,” said Liu.

Diabetic smokers face greater risks

Chris McCarthy / The Poly Post

Diabetic smokers face greater risks

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