Molecular physiology of diabetes and obesity
The incidence of type 2 diabetes has increased dramatically throughout the world in recent years and poses a serious threat to global health. It is characterised by hyperglycaemia resulting from impaired insulin action on target tissues such as liver, muscle and adipose tissue, as well as a reduction in pancreatic insulin secretion. Current therapies include dietary restriction, increased physical activity and/or hypoglycaemic agents and each of these has demonstrated varying degrees of success in maintaining long term glycemic control. Numerous agents have been shown to induce insulin resistance including ER stress, oxidative stress and chronic exposure to glucose, insulin, fatty acids and pro-inflammatory cytokines. The mechanisms by which each of these agents causes insulin resistance are poorly understood and in our laboratory, we are interested in elucidating the genes and pathways involved in the various contexts of insulin resistance. In addition, we have recently identified a gene expression signature capable of predicting insulin sensitivity in a human cohort. Gene expression signatures identify a small subset of genes that are predictive of the disease type as well as the response to therapy.
In our laboratory, we have developed a number of cell-based models that exhibit insulin resistance as a consequence of treatment with various agents. We hope to be able to (i) identify gene expression signatures for a range of insulin resistance types that have predictive power in human populations and (ii) utilise the gene expression signatures to screen compound libraries to identify novel anti-diabetic therapies.
Dr Windmill received her PhD in Physiology from Deakin University in 1994 before completing post-doctoral training at The University of Queensland in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. Her postdoctoral work from 1994 to 1997 at The University of Queensland involved the identification and characterisation of drug metabolising enzymes including sulfotransferases, N-acetyltransferases and cytochrome P450s. In 1998, Dr Windmill returned to Deakin University to commence work at the Metabolic Research Unit where she is now working in the area of Molecular Physiology, with particular reference to metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.