Diabetes affects more than 30 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the Rio Grande Valley ranking as the area with the most diabetic adults, a local university is finding ways to control the disease.

The School of Medicine at the University of Rio Grande Valley is starting a new research center in hopes of finding new treatments and medicines for Hispanics with diabetes.

“Diabetes is a significant issue and public health threat in the community,  but also because medications don’t work the same when you factor race, for example, a medicine that works well with one group may not necessarily work well for a Hispanic population,” said Sofia Hernandez, Chief of Staff for UTRGV School of Medicine.

For the first time, 25 scientists will study blood samples, identify genetic and environmental factors and survey from 1,000 mid-valley residents who have type 2 diabetes.

Over the next four years, residents from Weslaco, La Villa, Edcouch, and other Delta-area communities will also be monitored by Knapp Community Care Foundation, which is funding the nearly $2 million research center.

This way, students and scientists will work together to learn, research, and focus on one common goal: Help Valley residents with diabetes.

“This will give us a great opportunity to look specifically at our Mexican-American families and why they’re at greater risk for diabetes to be able to determine medication and treatments that works for Hispanics,” said Hernandez.

And local doctors agree.

“Many of our patients have diabetes and we deal with a lot of complications that go along with diabetes,” said Dr. Thomas Turk, a family medicine practitioner in McAllen. “I think it’s very important to continue with the studies and find cures.” 

Dr. Turk says diet and exercise is the main way to control diabetes, but new research is always needed.

The 1,000 Delta-area residents are expected to be selected within the next month.

Research will be conducted until Dec. 31, 2021.

Correction: The Knapp Community Care Foundation is funding the research center.