Funding boost for Deakin University diabetes research

9 December 2010

Deakin University research that could result in a new diabetes treatment has received $75,000 funding from the Ramaciotti Foundations.

The funding will support a project led by Deakin Medical School scientist Dr Sean McGee to test if a protein (A-beta) that is connected with Alzheimer’s disease, also causes diabetes.

Dr McGee said that the Ramaciotti Foundations funding was much welcomed support for the project.

“I am really pleased to receive the grant from the Ramaciotti Foundations,” Dr McGee said.

“This grant will allow us to continue our work to determine the role the A-beta protein plays in the development of diabetes and potentially find a new treatment for the disease.”

There is evidence that people with diabetes are predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s disease, and vice versa, which is what led the researchers to explore the role of A-beta in other diseases.

“A lot is already known about A-beta in terms of its involvement in Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr McGee explained.

“In Alzheimer’s, the A-beta is released from brain cells and forms large fibres that ultimately destroy the brain. Our preliminary studies are showing that other tissues such as fat produce A-beta in the same way as the brain, but rather than inducing an Alzheimer’s type disease it produces a diabetes type disease.

“We believe the release of A-beta from body fat interacts with tissues like muscle and the liver and disrupts the metabolism in those tissues which in turn could cause diabetes.”

While the project is in the early stages, Dr McGee is quietly confident that his research team will prove that A-beta has a role in the development of diabetes.

“There is a lot of evidence from brain research that shows A-beta impairs metabolism like diabetes does with other tissues, so it seems logical that it will be shown to cause diabetes,” he said.

If the project is successful in showing a connection between the A-beta protein and diabetes, the researchers will be able to tap into existing drugs to find potential new treatments.

“A lot of drugs have been developed to try and combat the effect of A-beta in Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr McGee explained.

“However, many of these drugs have failed because they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier which is a protective mechanism that filters blood going to the brain.

“What this means for our project is that there are a range of existing drugs that could be tested to treat diabetes.”

News facts
  • $75,000 Ramaciotti Foundations grant received for diabetes research
  • Funding will support a project looking at causes and treatments for diabetes
  • Researchers are investigating whether a protein involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease also causes diabetes

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890

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9th December 2010