Twenty-seven-year-old Alex Fields-Garrity has always been overweight, and wonders why she struggles in losing weight. Her fraternal twin sister is the complete opposite from the time they were very young to today.
"She and I had the exact same lifestyle, did the same exact activities, ate the same food," Fields-Garrity says.
But she suffers from a metabolic syndrome and is now pre-diabetic, while her sister is not.
"If I do not lose weight, a significant amount of weight, I know I will become diabetic," Fields-Garrity says. "Unless there is some sort of cure or treatment in place for someone who has these risk factors, but can't get rid of them."
But Fields-Garrity has hope there will be a cure. She just took part in a research study at the new Translational Research Institute. The partnership between Sanford-Burnham and Florida Hospital takes what researchers learn in a lab and apply it directly to patients like Fields-Garrity.
Diabetes expert and the institute's scientific director Dr. Steven Smith says their work will help them understand the genetic link between diabetes, obesity, and then create new personalized treatments for those with diabetes or those struggling with their weight. It's no longer the one-size-fits-all model of eat less and exercise more.
"What we're trying to do is develop a personalized approach to connect with a person's metabolism," Dr. Smith explains. "What does that mean for the individual? It means there is a time when diabetes will be treated differently, that we'll tailor therapies for that individual."
As part of the study, Fields-Garrity went in once a week for seven weeks and under went a physical, body scan, and other tests. She hopes taking part in the research will help others and ultimately find a cure for diabetes.
"It's a big goal, but I think if anyone can do it, it's going to be Florida Hospital and Dr. Smith," Fields-Garrity says.
Besides trying to find a cure, the Translational Research Institute gives local patients a chance to take part in new innovative treatments and trials. Diabetes and other metabolism-related diseases affect nearly a third of all Americans.