Wednesday, December 14, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Advancing an artificial pancreas, developing anti-obesity drugs, and exploring immune-based diabetes treatments will spearhead the Decade of Discovery's research programs in coming months. Decade leaders today announced awards totaling $1.86 million in state funding to the three projects under the auspices of the Minnesota Partnership. These Partnership/Decade of Discovery projects have co-investigators from the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.
"The goal of the Decade of Discovery is to conquer diabetes; and these projects, developed by collaborative teams of outstanding scientists from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, will go a long way towards doing that," says Elizabeth Seaquist, M.D., University of Minnesota endocrinologist and Decade co-leader. "Using the resources from the Minnesota Partnership, we expect to see major advances in both diabetes treatment and prevention as a result of this work."
"These projects span the scope of laboratory and patient-based research, as well as taking aim at both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes," says Victor Montori, M.D., Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and Decade co-leader. "They also indicate the variety of scientific approaches we are taking in this offensive against both diseases."
Yogish Kudva, M.B.B.S., and his co-investigator Ananda Basu, M.B.B.S, M.D., Mayo Clinic diabetes researchers, will join engineering professor Steven Koester, Ph.D. of the University of Minnesota, to develop a specialized electronic chip that will vastly improve glucose monitoring and provide a critical component to the artificial pancreas being developed by Mayo Clinic. The chip will be a new type of sensor that can transmit data wirelessly and therefore function in more locations in the body than current sensors. It may also last longer than current sensors and, because it's made from graphene, may also be useful in detecting other diabetes factors such as lactate or ketone molecules. Based on a device concept invented at the University of Minnesota, the new sensor should be more reliable, stable, and accurate — and help make the artificial pancreas possible ($500,000).
Because obesity is the greatest risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, University of Minnesota physiologist Alessandro Bartolomucci, Ph.D., and Mayo endocrinologist John Miles, M.D., want to develop an anti-obesity drug. To do so they need to discover new molecular targets for the drugs. A prime drug candidate is the peptide TLQP-21, which was recently identified in Dr. Bartolomucci's lab. It has been shown to prevent obesity in mice by increasing fat decomposition and decreasing the size of fat cells. For the next year, the researchers will be uncovering how the peptide functions, as well as determining its receptor, its biochemical properties and chemical structure. That knowledge will form the foundation of a new anti-obesity drug program. The goal is to create medications that, used in combination with lifestyle changes, will limit obesity and thus prevent Type 2 diabetes ($875,000).
Immunologist Brian Fife, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Minnesota recently discovered that targeting insulin-specific T cells (the killer cells of the body's immune system) is an effective way to cure Type 1 diabetes in mice. Govindarajan Rajagopalan, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Chella David, Ph.D., both of Mayo Clinic, pioneered the development of transgenic mice that contain human HLA alleles — the genetic source of Type 1 diabetes. Together in the coming year, they will test and validate mouse models containing human diabetes cells against various factors. The goal is to find targets that would make T cells more tolerant and keep them from destroying beta cells that produce insulin. A validated mouse model will help researchers test potential drugs on human diabetes cells without harming patients ($486,368).
The Decade of Discovery is a research initiative of the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics. The Decade of Discovery is dedicated to preventing, optimally treating and ultimately curing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The overall goal is to conduct research to discover new approaches and implement the results of the research in the care of people and communities.
A Minnesota Partnership to Conquer Diabetes is led by The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, a collaboration among the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and the state of Minnesota. Learn more about the Partnership.
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