Understanding Diabetes Through Virtual Gaming

Scott Brown, professor of physiology and pharmacology and small animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Brown is the Edward H. Gunst Professor of Small Animal Studies and a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor.

Scott Brown, professor of physiology and pharmacology and small animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Brown is the Edward H. Gunst Professor of Small Animal Studies and a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor.

When Scott Brown thinks about the future of education, he sees his undergraduate students taking notes on tablets and looking at 3-D models while maneuvering textbook pages with the flick of a finger.

Brown, professor of physiology and pharmacology and small animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, imagines veterinary offices running the same way, with providers using handheld tablets to show pet owners exactly what is wrong with their animals and how procedures will help them.

“Technology is going to be everywhere, even more than now,” said Brown. “We need to be at the cutting edge. We’ll fail in our teaching approaches otherwise.”

Brown received a $525,000, five-year grant to design, create and test interactive gaming technology that helps undergraduate students learn more about renal and cardiovascular physiology, diabetes and obesity by acting as virtual scientists studying renal physiology in a virtual research laboratory.

Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the software will allow students to learn kidney functions by watching molecules interact and investigating tubular processes at microscopic levels. Students will also work on three digital case studies, allowing them to virtually examine renal and cardiac function of both healthy patients and those suffering from kidney disease and heart disease.

“The financial burden of diabetes is astronomical, and it’s rising dramatically,” he said. “Even if the current obesity trend hits a plateau, diabetes follows the onset of obesity by 10 to 20 years, so we will have this problem for decades to come. We need tools to help young people understand this.”

The research project is funded by the NIH grant 1R25DK094760 – 01A1.