Insulin-free diabetes research receives funding boost

November 17, 1999

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada--Research conducted by the University of Alberta (UofA)diabetes research team received a $2.7 million funding boost recently, moving it closer to achieving insulin-free treatment for diabetics. The UofA research team is one of only two 1999 Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF)/Medical Research Council (MRC) Diabetes Research Network Partnerships awarded in Canada. UofA professor and Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Scholar, Dr. Alex Rabinovitch leads the research team together with Drs. Ray Rajotte and John Elliott.

Currently, islet transplantation is the most effective means of controlling glucose levels in diabetics who require insulin treatment (Type 1 diabetes). Islet cells act as a thermostat in the body telling it when to naturally produce needed insulin to move glucose and other nutrients from the blood stream into the body's tissues and cells. However, to date only a small fraction of diabetics who received islet transplants have remained insulin free for one year or more. The funding will allow continued research on preventing rejection of transplanted islet cells in order that diabetics can become insulin free. UofA research will focus on determining why these islet cells cease being effective.

The UofA research team is also developing procedures whereby islet cells can be transplanted into Type 1 diabetics before the onset of physical complications, such as renal failure. Another focus of research is reducing or eliminating the need for chronic immunosuppression drugs for islet transplant patients.

Other members of the research team include Drs. R. Chris Bleackley, Norm Kneteman, Greg Korbutt, Jonathan Lakey, Eddie Ryan, James Shaprio and Garth Warnock.

Diabetes affects one in every 20 Canadians, many of them children and young adults. The University of Alberta has been deeply involved in diabetes research through the Muttart Diabetes Research and Training Centre for 18 years. Researchers in the Centre were the first in Canada to successfully transplant islet cells and have patients insulin-free for extended periods of time.

The JDF mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through support of research. It gives more money to diabetes research than any other non-profit, non-government health agency in the world. The MRC is the major federal agency responsible for funding of health research and training in Canada.
The University of Alberta in Edmonton is one of Canada's premier teaching and research universities serving more than 29,000 students with 6,000 faculty and staff.

For more information please contact
Alex Rabinovitch, co-director, University of Alberta
Muttart Diabetes Research and Training Centre, 1 (country code for Canada) 780-492-6855;

or Sandra Halme, Public Affairs, (country code for Canada) 780-492-0442.
Media Relations Manager
Public Affairs
400 Athabasca Hall
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Canada
T6G 2E8

University of Alberta

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