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The potential for a groundbreaking diabetes treatment is on the horizon

A potential breakthrough in diabetes treatment has emerged from research conducted at the University of Alberta. A team of scientists has identified a gene in insulin-producing cells that could pave the way for a new class of medications to treat and potentially cure diabetes.

Jean-Buteau diabetes

Jean Buteau

Peter Senior

Peter Senior

Lead researcher Jean Buteau, a professor of human nutrition at the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences and a member of the Alberta Diabetes Institute, describes this discovery as a significant advancement in the field of diabetes research. The newfound gene, known as the Lyn kinase gene, plays a vital role in regulating beta cells in the pancreas, responsible for insulin production. When beta cells fail, blood glucose levels rise, resulting in diabetes.

Diabetes cell

Diabetes cell

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The breakthrough lies in the potential to trigger this gene using a pill containing a specific molecule. This could protect existing beta cells and potentially regenerate those destroyed by the immune system, offering a revolutionary approach to diabetes treatment. Buteau explains that the goal is to increase the body’s capacity to secrete insulin and improve glucose regulation.

Promising results have already been observed in experiments with mouse models of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes, the molecule in question doubled the number of beta cells in just seven days of treatment. Similarly, in Type 1 diabetes, the treatment led to an expansion of beta cell mass, regeneration, and protection.

Encouraged by these findings, the University of Alberta team is preparing for the first-ever clinical trials in humans with Type 1 diabetes. Collaborating with a pharmaceutical partner, they are gearing up to test an oral drug on 12 patients, which will provide essential baseline data for refining the protocol in larger clinical trials.

The research was made possible through the support of the Defeating Diabetes campaign, a partnership between the Alberta Diabetes Foundation, the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation of Canada, and the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. The campaign, launched on World Diabetes Day, aims to fund research in three key areas: finding a cure, improving the lives of individuals with diabetes, and early diagnosis to mitigate diabetes-related complications.

Peter Senior, director of the Alberta Diabetes Institute, highlights the significance of Buteau’s research progress, noting that it’s an exceptional achievement to transition from basic research to the clinical trial stage within the institute itself. The project showcases both groundbreaking work and the U of A’s tradition of pioneering diabetes research.

Buteau emphasized the pivotal role played by the Defeating Diabetes campaign in advancing their work, mentioning that without its support, bringing this research to fruition might not have been possible. He also emphasizes that the campaign’s impact extends beyond financial contributions, serving as a source of motivation for researchers.

The Defeating Diabetes campaign supports innovative research across the Alberta Diabetes Institute, including projects led by four additional U of A researchers within the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. These projects focus on stem cell-based insulin production, improving the supply of islets for transplantation, and preventing Type 2 diabetes in children.

| Staff

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