November 13, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 58 — Future of the U.S. Economy, and Type 2 diabetes

Despite progress in employment and economic output, the U.S. economy remains far from recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns over anticipated spikes in virus cases this winter are creating more uncertainty. A new forecast from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business suggests the economy's recovery will continue in 2021, but much more slowly than earlier this year, and likely with continued turbulence. Kelley economists say that employment is unlikely to get back to its pre-shutdown peak until well into 2022, with unemployment rates remaining above pre-pandemic levels through the coming year. And while consumer spending may recover, it will be geared toward purchasing goods, not services, particularly during the first half of 2021. The business experts say housing construction should continue to expand as interest rates remain low, but businesses will shy away from investments in new facilities. Ryan Brewer, an associate professor of Finance at Indiana University’s Columbus campus center, says while this year is ending similarly to how it began—with the number of COVID-19 cases spiking—our improved understanding of the virus and how to approach treatment may soften the economic impact. A significant worsening of the pandemic as we enter the first quarter of 2021 will likely lead to a weaker economic situation, say the experts. Economic stimulus is badly needed, they say, to protect businesses and households until the worst effects of the pandemic are behind us.

In other news, Type 2 diabetes in adults and children is rising at alarming rates in the U.S. and around the world. Scientists at IU took a deep dive into better understanding the development of Type 2 diabetes and found that the insulin gene has encountered what they call an “evolutionary cul-de-sac,” limiting its ability to adapt to obesity and thereby rendering most people vulnerable to the disease. The recent study, done by scientists at Indiana University School of Medicine, the University of Michigan and Case Western Reserve University, determined that the amino-acid sequence of the insulin biosynthetic precursor (proinsulin) has impaired folding efficiency. Dr. Michael Weiss, a distinguished professor at IU School of Medicine, says biological processes ordinarily evolve to be robust, and this protects us in the majority of cases from birth defects and diseases. But diabetes seems to be an exception. Weiss and team looked at a subtle mutation in human insulin in relation to the insulins of other animals, such as cows and porcupines. They discovered that even the slightest variation of the proinsulin sequence not only impairs insulin but also induces cellular stress in the pancreas that leads to secretory dysfunction and eventually permanent damage. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, Weiss and his team say their findings might lead to a deeper understanding of the development of Type 2 diabetes and new avenues for its prevention and treatment.