A George Washington University researcher will receive $1.3 million over the next five years from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) for research that will help better understand how type 2 diabetes develops, possibly informing the development of novel treatments to reverse the disease.
The research is particularly important given 150 million people worldwide suffer from type 2 diabetes--a number expected to double over the next 20 years.
Aleksandar Jeremic, an associate professor of biology in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, along with a team of GW undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, will study the role amylin--a hormone that, like insulin, is secreted by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels--plays in the development of type 2 diabetes. When amylin aggregates in the pancreas and forms protein deposits, it can kill insulin-producing beta-cells, leading to type 2 diabetes.
Using high-resolution imaging approaches such as confocal and atomic force microscopy, which can produce a scan at the nanometer resolution, the GW team will investigate the molecular and biochemical events that lead to the aggregation of human amylin.
“We know of many factors, such as poor diet and inactivity, that contribute to type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Jeremic said. “What is less clear, but no less important, is the role amylin plays in the development of the disease. Our research may also provide a better understanding of the biological role of this important signaling molecule in the human body.”
Ultimately, the information could contribute to new treatments for type 2 diabetes, for example, by preventing the aggregation of amylin or making cells less susceptible to the toxic effects of the buildup.
The project, "Molecular Mechanisms of Amylin Trafficking and Toxicity in Human Pancreatic Islets,” NIH grant R01DK091845, will be funded by the NIDDK, part of the National Institutes of Health, for the next five years.