Research to find a viable cure for juvenile diabetes, also known as type 1 diabetes, received a boost today with the launch of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Centre for Beta Cell Replacement at McGill University and Université de Montréal. The announcement was made at McGill University.
Under the leadership of Lawrence Rosenberg, MD, PhD, at McGill University Health Centre and co-director Marc Prentki, PhD of Université de Montréal, the Centre will address one of the major obstacles in islet transplantation: the critical shortage of beta cells available for transplants. Although islet transplantation from donor pancreases can restore normal insulin production in people with Type 1 diabetes, the next critical step is getting more islets from each pancreas. The Centre will develop and attempt to expand the supply of beta cells and seek to protect and preserve beta cell function in transplants.
The Centre is being funded with a $2.6 million grant from JDRF over a three-year period. "JDRF has been funding islet transplantation as one of its priorities worldwide and is moving the field forward at an accelerated pace," commented Richard Furlanetto, PhD, Scientific Director, JDRF. " We have fostered an era of communication and cooperation among research centres worldwide to address this supply problem."
Researchers at the JDRF Centre for Beta Cell Replacement will use various technologies to expand the beta-cell pool by "tweaking" the mature islets back to an immature form where they will again multiply. Once they have multiplied sufficiently, researchers will study how to change them back to beta cells. Centre scientists have also identified other cell types in the pancreas which, under the right conditions, can be induced to synthesize and secrete insulin.
"The recent success of islet transplantation made in the Edmonton Protocol at the JDRF Centre for Clinical Islet Transplantation at the University of Alberta two years ago, in patients with very severe life-threatening problems with glucose control, has set the stage for widespread application of this approach. However, given the current organ donation rate and the inefficiencies inherent in the islet isolation procedure, it is estimated that only 0.6 percent of the possible recipients will be transplanted. We need to expand the insulin-producing beta-cell mass and are working closely with our Edmonton colleagues," commented Dr. Rosenberg.
Researchers have also undertaken two projects aimed at protecting transplanted islets and increasing their survival. "We will conduct laboratory studies and use rat models to examine how high levels of glucose and various fatty acids -prevalent in today's food environment - harm beta cells. This will help scientists design strategies for beta cell survival using diet and drugs," commented Dr. Prentki.
The other effort to protect transplanted cells includes a new approach to administering anti-rejection drugs in a biodegradable, plastic sheath that will release its contents slowly, specifically targeting the transplanted tissue. This approach is a promising way of combining drug therapy together with the transplanted beta cells.
About the MUHC Research Institute
The Research Institute at McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) located in Montreal, Quebec, is Canada's largest concentration of biomedical and health-care researchers. The institute has over 500 researchers, nearly 650 graduate and post-doctoral students and 306 laboratories devoted to research. The mission of the institute is to facilitate investigator-initiated and discovery-driven research that creates new knowledge. This research is inextricably linked to clinical programs, which provide a bench-to-bedside-to-community continuum. The MUHC research institute is renowned as a world-class research institution that operates at the forefront of new knowledge, innovation, trends, and technologies.
About the Centre de Recherche du CHUM
The Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM) is the second largest hospital associated medical research centre in Quebec. It resulted from the fusion of the research centres of Hôpital Notre Dame, Hotel Dieu and Hôpital St Luc. The CRCHUM has over 300 researchers and nearly 400 graduate and post-doctoral students working in both basic and clinically oriented research. It is a world-renown institution whose mission is to foster investigator-initiated research and biomedical innovation.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is the world's largest non-profit, non-governmental funder of diabetes research. JDRF's mission is clear to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Since its inception, JDRF has given over $700 million to diabetes research. The Foundation has been behind every major advancement in diabetes research in Canada and around the world.