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With $1.6 million award, biochemist tackles diabetes
Date:1/9/2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] - People with type 2 diabetes can make insulin but their bodies use it so poorly that glucose levels run amok. It's been difficult for scientists to understand what's going awry in the way that tiny, fast-moving proteins signal and regulate glucose metabolism. As a result, while drugs can help somewhat, many patients still must monitor their glucose and inject insulin.

Brown University biochemist Wolfgang Peti is new to the fight, but he's well-armed and well-motivated to join it.

As it is for millions of people around the world, the pervasive condition is personal for Peti. His grandmother battled it for decades.

"It affected her ability to see, her ability to walk through the mountains of Austria, and her ability to eat all the traditional foods she grew up eating and cooking," Peti said. "And while she successfully battled the disease for many years, eventually the doctors had to amputate both of her legs (first at age 80, second at age 88) and she was confined to a wheelchair for the last eight years of her life."

Although he hasn't focused specifically on diabetes before, decades of research have given him a deep expertise in the atomic structure and behavior of some of the key proteins of insulin signaling. He and his collaborators have refined these proteins in the lab to the degree that they and their interactions can now be fully analyzed with advanced techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography.

Last year, when Brown acquired a powerful new NMR magnet, Peti gained a rare degree of capability to study the dynamic motions of these proteins and the timing of their interactions, as well as their basic structure. That's exactly what he now plans to do with a five-year, $1.625-million New to Diabetes Research Accelerator Award announced Jan. 9, 2014, by the American Diabetes Association. Peti is one of only five researchers around the
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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