Each year, Diabetes Canada funds some of Canada’s most renowned scientists and physicians in their fight against diabetes.

Here is a closer look at some of our researchers.

Meeting the need: Revolutionizing type 2 diabetes drug therapy

Dr. Daniel Drucker, a long-time Diabetes Canada-funded researcher, and senior investigator at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, has been awarded the 2014 Manpei Suzuki International Prize for Diabetes Research for “his extensive and ground-breaking contributions over the years to many landmark discoveries.”

Award-winning research by Dr. Drucker’s team focuses on hormones made in the pancreas, digestive tract and brain. These gut hormones regulate the production of insulin and food intake. Their discoveries have led to the development of two new groups of drugs to treat type 2 diabetes – a disease in which the body cannot properly use the insulin that it has or does not make enough insulin. Two key challenges for people with diabetes are weight gain and hypoglycemia – low blood glucose (sugar) – which can result in confusion, a loss of consciousness and seizures. Some diabetes medications contribute to both conditions. However, drugs developed through his research are what Dr. Drucker calls smart medications: “They only lower blood sugar levels when they need to be lowered, and cause weight loss or do not cause weight gain.”

Involved in research for the past 30 years, Dr. Drucker is also an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Diabetes Canada has a long history of funding his work. In 1996, he won Diabetes Canada's Young Scientist Award. He continues to explore new therapies for type 2 diabetes that could have even more benefits for people living with the disease.

How can you help us fund research that changes lives? Donate now! diabetes.ca/donate

Improving lives: a new strategy for treating type 2 diabetes

Dr. Ravi Retnakaran has shown his commitment to the diabetes community in numerous ways, including as a Diabetes Canada volunteer on the 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee.

An endocrinologist and Diabetes Canada-funded researcher, Dr. Retnakaran is also a clinician-scientist at the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital, and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. His passion was sparked by work in the field, when he became profoundly touched by the scope of the challenge facing individuals living with diabetes and their families, and society in general.

Growing knowledge about high-risk populations added personal motivation to his work. Of South Asian origin, he is himself at risk. Recent studies also show a growing incidence within the Chinese population, directly raising the risk factors for both his wife, who is of Chinese ancestry, and his young son.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Retnakaran has just published an analysis of current type 2 diabetes research in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal. It shows that a new diabetes therapy that combines long-acting insulin and a new class of medication (that mimics a naturally occurring gut hormone) can result in excellent blood sugar control without increasing the risk of low blood sugar levels or weight gain. Adoption of this strategy could eliminate current side effects of drug therapy for people with type 2 diabetes, improving the quality of their lives.

How can you help us fund research that changes lives? Donate now! diabetes.ca/donate

Want to make a difference and contribute to changing lives? Participate in the RESET-IT clinical trial, which is testing a strategy for gaining excellent blood sugar control without weight gain or increased risk of low blood sugar levels. 

Tracking proteins: Determining the role of Nck in the development of insulin resistance

In 2007-2010, Dr. Louise Larose, a researcher at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, received a Diabetes Canada operating grant to explore the role of the protein Nck in the development of insulin resistance, diabetes, and cancer in mice.

She and her team were trying to determine if the protein Nck helps to protect individuals from developing insulin resistance, or if it contributes to it. To do this, Dr. Larose and her team used mice, which do not express Nck, and fed them a diet that created high levels of metabolic stress. The team then monitored the markers of glucose control in the mice and noted the effects.

They wished to examine how this protein functions at the tissue level. To do this, they first observed how the tissue functions with the protein and then removed the protein from the same tissue to observe how the tissue functions without the protein. Dr. Larose and her team also examined the tissue’s ability to cope with metabolic stress in both situations, in order to determine the role that this protein plays in glucose control.

Dr. Larose and her colleagues were pleasantly surprised by their results, and hope that at some point in the future, they will be able to move into studies with humans. Dr. Larose is hopeful that her work will eventually lead to new and better therapies for people with insulin resistance.

Giving patients a voice: Searching for answers through experience

In 2009-2010, researcher Judith M. Rashotte received a Diabetes Canada operating grant to give adolescent patients a voice by conducting conversational interviews with both parents and adolescents about their unique experiences living with continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII) pumps and REAL-time continuous glucose monitors (RT CGM).

“Most research studies do not give a voice to people living the experience, but rather make assumptions about what a patient values in their lives,” said Rashotte, Director Nursing Research, and Knowledge Transfer Consultant at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa. “For this study, we wanted to hear the patient’s voice. We wanted to share, through stories, what it is like to live through an experience.”

Rashotte, along with members of her team, developed four questions about sensor-augmented pump therapy that they used to guide interviews with five to 10 adolescents (12 to 17 years of age) living with type 1 diabetes who had experience (current or past) living with sensor augmented pump therapy. They also used similar questions in interviews with five to 10 parents.

The team hopes their study will not only enhance the understanding of adolescent and parent experiences using sensor augmented pump therapy, but also increase the sensitivity of healthcare providers so that they can help patients make better informed decisions about whether or not to initiate sensor augmented pump therapy. A better understanding of the personal experience of this diabetes management technology will help to identify the support needed by adolescents and their families.

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