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Monday, November 14 is World Diabetes Day

November 10, 2011
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It has been almost 90 years since Canadians Sir Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best discovered insulin, saving and improving the lives of people with diabetes around the world. Today, scientists at CFRI at BC Children’s Hospital are building on this legacy through innovative research aimed at preventing and curing diabetes in children.

The Diabetes Research Program at CFRI is made of up 19 of Canada’s rising stars in the field of diabetes research. Together, they are working to answer three key questions:

  • How can we prevent diabetes?
  • How can we stop a child’s immune system from destroying beta cells?
  • How can we grow new beta cells?

Each question has prompted dozens of ongoing translational research projects involving CFRI scientists and clinicians in collaboration with researchers around the world.  Recent highlights include:

  • Dr. Dina Panagiotopoulos, in collaboration with Dr. Jana Davidson, head of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at BC Children’s, found that youth taking a class of medications called atypical or second generation antipsychotics have three times the risk of developing abnormally high blood sugars (pre-diabetes) or type 2 diabetes, and two times the risk of becoming overweight or obese. As a result of these findings, PHSA opened a Provincial Mental Health Metabolic Program at BC Children’s to help these children before they develop serious health issues. In addition, Dr. Panagiotopoulos and Dr. Davidson contributed to national recommendation for clinicians on monitoring and managing the care of children who take these medications. Dr. Panagiotopoulos is a clinician scientist at CFRI, pediatric endocrinologist at BC Children’s and assistant professor in UBC’s Department of Pediatrics. [Read this publication]
  • A team of researchers led by Dr. Bruce Verchere found that increasing a protein called CCL22 in insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas blocks the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes. They used a modified virus to insert the gene for CCL22 into the beta cells of a strain of mice known to develop diabetes. The discovery could lead to a drug that prevents the progression of type 1 diabetes in people newly diagnosed who are in the “honeymoon” phase of the disease, when the immune system has not yet destroyed all of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Dr. Verchere is the head of the Diabetes Research Program and a scientist at CFRI, Irving K Barber Chair in Diabetes Research at UBC and a professor in UBC’s Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Surgery. [Read this publication]

At list of recent publications from the Diabetes Research Program can be found on the program’s new website at www.bcchr.ca/diabetes.

Today, nearly one in four Canadians have diabetes or pre-diabetes. 2000 children in B.C. have type 1 diabetes. Nationally, rates of type 1 diabetes continue to rise, particularly in children age five to nine years old.

World Diabetes Day was created by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in 1991, in response to growing concern over rising rates of diabetes and the serious complications associated with the disease.

For more information about Diabetes Research Program, please email diabetes@bcchr.ca.