Canadian Diabetes Association Supports $5 Million in Diabetes Research

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The Canadian Diabetes Association recently awarded $5 million in funding to 88 diabetes research teams across Canada. The money will be used over the next year to fund a wide variety of diabetes research initiatives, from leading edge insulin research to applied research that could directly benefit Canadians living with diabetes.

Here are just a few examples of the kinds of new initiatives being funded by the Association:

When it comes to diabetes and heart disease, does it matter where you live or how much you earn? University of Toronto researcher Dr. Gillian Booth examines how a person’s income level, neighbourhood and access to local health care services can affect the likelihood of developing diabetes and heart disease.

If people with type 2 diabetes are given free blood glucose testing supplies, will they test their blood sugar levels more often? Will they then do better at lowering or maintaining their target blood glucose levels? Those are some of the questions being asked by Dr. Jeffery Johnson’s team from the Institute of Health Economics in Edmonton. They hope this research will help provincial governments decide where to find the best return on their healthcare investment dollars.

To say obesity is a ‘big’ problem in Canada is an understatement. Several research teams are tackling this issue from different perspectives. Dr. Hyo-Sung Ro’s team from Dalhousie University is looking at the genes and proteins involved in the development of fat cells, while Dr. Quingling Huang’s team from the University Health Network in Toronto examines the biological actions of a new protein, GLP-2, that inhibits food intake. The University of Toronto’s Dr. Michael Wheeler wants to identify genes and proteins that may cause type 2 diabetes associated with body fat and obesity. Another U of T team, headed by Dr. Adria Giacca, is looking at how fatty acids in the blood cause insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells are less able to make use of insulin to move glucose out of the blood and into the cell for use as fuel.

A group headed by McGill University Health Centre pathologist, Dr. Gerald Prud’homme, is injecting the insulin gene directly into muscle tissue in order to provide a method of continuous insulin delivery. The researchers will look at the long term effects of this in animals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The group theorizes that in people at risk for type 1 diabetes, muscle cells would secrete insulin continually, preventing diabetes. In patients with type 2 diabetes, a constant level of insulin production could help make diabetes medications unnecessary or reduce diabetes-related complications.

Other research topics that will benefit from Canadian Diabetes Association funding include: why the body’s white T-cells sometimes work to destroy the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas; ways to make diabetes education more effective; studies of diabetes and the elderly; and how bedtime snacks for kids with type 1 diabetes could be adjusted to smooth out overnight blood sugar fluctuations.

“This year’s topics reflect the general thrust of diabetes research world-wide, that of prevention – prevention of type 2 diabetes through investigations into such issues as obesity and insulin resistance, as well as prevention of type 1 diabetes through gene therapy,” said Donna Lillie, Director, Research and Professional Education, Canadian Diabetes Association.

“We feel it’s crucial to support researchers in both academic and community settings. We also fund health care providers’ efforts to improve the day-to-day life of people affected by diabetes, and help train tomorrow’s clinicians and scientists.”

Over the last 26 years, the Canadian Diabetes Association contributed $60 million to support excellence in Canadian diabetes research.

Some of the researchers supported by the Association shared their work with more than 1,600 diabetes health care professionals at the Canadian Diabetes Association’s 6th annual professional conference in Vancouver October 2-5.