Nine grants for diabetes research
The Danish Diabetes Academy is handing out grants amounting to DKK 16.6 million to a total of thirteen diabetes researchers and three visiting professors. Nine of the recipients are associated with the University of Copenhagen.
Nine doctors and researchers affiliated with the University of Copenhagen receive a total of DKK 10.35 million for research in diabetes.
Eight recipients are from the Faculty of Health Sciences, while one is from the Faculty of Science. The money comes from the Danish Diabetes Academy (DDA) and is part of a larger pool of DKK 16.6 million.
The grants have been awarded to a total of 13 young diabetes researchers in connection to Rigshospitalet, Nordsjælllands Hospital, the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Aarhus University, Odense University Hospital and the University of Copenhagen.
In addition, three visiting professors from Australia, the United Kingdom and Austria, respectively, will receive grants.
Centered on clinicians
According to the Danish Diabetes Academy, the applications in this year's funding round have been ‘of exceptionally high quality’, especially among clinicians.
This is reflected on the grants, which have largely gone to research with a clinical focus and to doctors in contact with citizens with diabetes or at risk of developing the disease.
'You find them at the centre of reality, with patients with mental and physical problems, with the increased risk of heart disease and with the need for help to cope with obesity and fatty liver', says the Chairman of DDA, Professor Allan Flyvbjerg, who is also the CEO of the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen.
The Danish Diabetes Academy was founded in 2012 and is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The purpose of the Academy is to educate future diabetes researchers and therapists.
Read more about the nine recipients from the University of Copenhagen and their projects by clicking/tapping on the names below:
Special diets and periods of fasting may prove effective in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Both the composition of meals and the intervals between them appear to be significant factors in the liver’s accumulation of triacylglycerol – a type of fat that has been associated with metabolic diseases.
With the PhD project ‘Targeting liver fat accumulation by dietary interventions’, Amalie London will investigate the dietary effects of the liver's content of triacylglycerol through two different studies: Partly by changing the availability of carbohydrates and fat, and partly by comparing the effect of so-called sporadic fasting with caloric restriction.
The fasting periods in the latter study will be based on the so-called 5:2 diet, where you eat normally on five weekdays and fast on two.
Amalie London's research project will be affiliated with the Faculty of Science. She receives DKK 1.1 million for her project.
Altered metabolism during pregnancy means that pregnant women may develop so-called gestational diabetes, also known as GDM.
In Denmark, this type of diabetes occurs in approximately three percent of all pregnant women, but with a new internationally uniform screening procedure from WHO, the proportion is expected to increase to 40 percent. This is due to lower diagnostic thresholds and screening of more women than previously.
On this background, in her PhD project ‘Screening for gestational diabetes: Is implementation of new criteria justified in a Danish population?’ Cathrine Munk Scheuer will assess the consequences of applying the new international criteria in Denmark.
This will be done by screening 1650 pregnant women for gestational diabetes and assessing the prevalence of the disease as well as its costs in relation to various combinations of selective and universal screening and the Danish and international thresholds for diagnosis.
For her research, Cathrine Munk Scheuer will receive DKK 1.1 million.
In people with diabetes, research has shown a link between large fluctuations in blood sugar and risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. However, exactly why is not yet known.
Finding the explanation is the goal of Christine Rode's research project ‘Glucose fluctuations and cardiovascular disease in diabetes’.
With a grant of DKK 1.1 million, she will over the next three years conduct two studies that will hopefully affect the treatment and the survival in diabetes patients: Firstly, a long-term monitoring of blood sugar and heart rate in patients with type 1 diabetes. Secondly, a monitoring of blood sugar before, during and after a balloon angioplasty in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Young people who have been overweight since childhood are at a very high risk of developing severe obesity and type 2 diabetes as early as in their young adulthood.
With her postdoc project ‘Understanding treatment of adolescent obesity and the underlying organ dysfunctions’, Eva Winning Lehmann, joining the Department of Biomedical Sciences, will attempt to change that statistic. She will receive DKK 1.8 million for the research study.
By combining knowledge from national and international experts in obesity and diabetes research – ranging from behavioral experts to cell biologists – the goal is to fundamentally change the approach to treating childhood and adolescent obesity. And thus also to prevent precursors to diabetes and other obesity-related diseases.
Oxidative stress is a physical or chemical strain on the body that creates an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals and increases the risk of inflammation and infection. Today, oxidative stress is known to play a key role in insulin resistance and various other markers of diabetes.
Inga Sileikaite is going to look into this topic with her PhD project ‘Role of nucleic acid modification in macrophages during the development of inflammatory disease’. Among other things, she will investigate how an increased amount of fat in the blood may promote oxidative stress and potentially lead to impaired insulin production and the development of diabetes.
She will receive DKK 550,000 in support for her research study.
If you want to avoid metabolic disease, you may have to adopt an extra healthy lifestyle during certain periods of the year. Previous studies on mammals have shown a strong correlation between circadian rhythm, circadian cycles and metabolism. Also, it has been shown that changes in the inner clock – such as seasonal changes of light and darkness – may have far-reaching effects on metabolic processes.
With his postdoc project ‘Investigating the seasonal rhythms in energy metabolism’, Lewin Small from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research will investigate whether the same is true in humans.
The hope is to determine if people at particular times of the year are especially prone to developing metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. And, if that is the case, to change prevention and treatment for patients, so that special efforts are made with respect to diet and exercise during the riskiest periods.
Lewin Small will receive DKK 1.2 million over two years.
Every year, obesity and its secondary complications, such as type 2 diabetes, are a costly burden for the healthcare sector and society. Today, nearly two billion people are obese, and that number is expected to rise in the coming decades.
For the next three years, Malene Revsbech Christiansen from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research will therefore go searching for biological factors behind weight gain. The goal is to better identify the genes where treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes will be most effective.
In particular, Malene Revsbech Christiansen has her eyes set on genetic variants of the appetite and energy regulating hormone leptin. This is the subject of her PhD project ‘Genetic regulation of leptin levels during weight loss – implications for weight management and metabolic health’, for which she will receive DKK 1.1 million.
Morten Dall from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research has received DKK 1.2 million for his postdoc course, where he will elucidate the link between metabolism of the molecule NAD+ and liver fibrosis – scar tissue in the liver that can lead to liver failure.
The overall goal of the study, called ‘Impaired hepatic NAD+ metabolism as a novel driver of liver fibrosis’, is to map the mechanisms and cell types that are activated during the development of fibrosis.
Based on these findings, he hopes to develop a treatment that can limit the liver disease. One of the first steps is to investigate how fatty liver can lead to the disorder known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which frequently occurs in obese people and in particular in diabetic patients.
The secretion of insulin is heavily influenced by intestinal hormones, which are usually of great importance for the regulation of blood sugar and appetite. However, in patients with type 2 diabetes, these mechanisms are often impaired.
This topic will be further investigated by Sara Lind Jepsen from the Department of Biomedical Sciences in her postdoctoral project ‘Can somatostatin antagonism be developed for type 2 diabetes therapy’. Here, she will specifically focus on the hormone somatostatin, which is primarily produced in the intestinal system as well as in certain areas of the brain.
With the study, she hopes to improve diabetes treatment by using the body's own hormone system rather than synthesising hormones, as is often the case today. Such a solution would likely reduce the incidence of side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.
Sara Lind Jepsen will receive DKK 1.2 million for her research project.
Communications Officer Anders Buch-Larsen