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JDRF awards University of Copenhagen professor with grant to conduct innovative diabetes research

Copenhagen, Denmark December 13, 2007 The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the world's largest charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research, awarded Professor Jens Hiriis Nielsen, from the University of Copenhagens Department of Medical Biochemistry and Genetics, a research grant for $495,000 to study beta cell regeneration and expansion during pregnancy with the objective of discovering new approaches for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

The project, Beta Cell Expansion: Lessons from Pregnancy, is aimed at studying the mechanisms responsible for the increase in insulin-producing beta cells during pregnancy. Experiments with mice have shown that increased levels of pregnancy hormones are involved in the proliferation of beta cells. Dr. Nielsen will now study the effect of serum from pregnant women on human beta cell proliferation and survival in isolated islets. The successful identification of the factors in pregnant human serum and understanding the signaling pathways involved in the expansion of insulin producing beta cells may ultimately lead to new regenerative drugs and therapies for type 1 diabetes.

This award will allow us to devote our research effort to unravel the mechanisms behind the beta cell expansion in pregnancy. We will work together with experts in protein chemistry from Novo Nordisk and in bioinformatics from the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, as well as other scientists engaged in the JDRF funded program, said Dr. Nielsen. By identification of growth factors and signaling pathways that promote expansion of the functional beta cell mass, new drug targets may be discovered that may lead to new ways of treatment of type 1 diabetes.

The University of Copenhagens novel work on beta cell regeneration and the effect pregnancy hormones have on human islet cell production, are key steps in understanding regeneration, said Patricia Kilian, Ph.D., Therapeutic Program Director for Regeneration research at JDRF. This initiative meets a critical JDRF research goal and more importantly has the potential to create applicable cure therapeutics for type 1 diabetes patients.


Contact: Brenda Cheung
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International

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