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MCW researcher to study mechanisms involved in diabetes

May 1, 2014

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a four-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to study the biochemical causes of beta cell destruction in diabetes.

John A. Corbett, Ph.D., professor and chairman of biochemistry, is the principal investigator of the grant.

Autoimmune, or insulin-dependent diabetes, is characterized by an inflammatory reaction around the islets in the pancreas, and followed by destruction of beta cells. The beta cells produce insulin, which is necessary for the body to maintain and control glucose levels. When the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin, people with diabetes must constantly test blood glucose levels and either inject insulin or ingest sugars to maintain the correct balance.

Autoimmune diabetes can also affect the heart, kidneys, blood vessels, nerves, and eyes.

In this project, Dr. Corbett’s lab will learn more about the cellular mechanisms responsible for the death of beta cells, and to identify naturally occurring mechanisms by which beta cells protect themselves against other cellular threats such as free radicals and cytokines, which are proteins that act as mediators and regulators of immune processes.

The long range goals of this project are to identify potential therapeutic strategies aimed at halting or slowing beta cell loss as a treatment or potential cure for autoimmune diabetes.

This project is funded by NIH grant R01DK052194-18A1.

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