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Broad Institute earns grant to support pathbreaking diabetes study
Date:7/21/2008

Researchers at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT have received a grant to support novel, integrative research aimed at finding ways to encourage the human body to replenish the cells that are missing in type 1 diabetes. Awarded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the $3M grant will fund work that knits together two interdisciplinary fields, genome biology and chemical biology, to address a fundamental question in human biology: can existing cells be coaxed to regenerate ones that are lost or damaged by disease?

"This grant will enable us to understand the inherent potential of human cells and how it might be harnessed in the future to improve health," said Stuart Schreiber, the grant's principal investigator and director of the Chemical Biology Program at the Broad Institute. "Our focus is on type 1 diabetes, a disease that typically surfaces in childhood and requires lifelong treatment, though our approach holds promise for practically any disease involving a cellular deficiency."

Diabetes stems from an inability to control the levels of glucose in the blood via a regulatory hormone called insulin. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin. The disease usually strikes in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, but lasts a lifetime. Patients with type 1 diabetes require lifelong insulin therapy, delivered through injections or a small, credit card-sized pump.

Yet that constant need for treatment might be lessened or perhaps eliminated altogether if the missing cells could be safely replaced. For example, surviving beta cells, while rare in type 1 patients, might be induced to multiply, creating enough copies of themselves to restore insulin supply. Or, perhaps other types of pancreatic cells could be redirected to become beta cells, a process known in scientific parlance as cellular reprogramming.

"From our initial proof-of-concept work, we know
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Contact: Nicole Davis
ndavis@broad.mit.edu
617-258-0952
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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