Diabetes

Medical Research Scotland is one of the largest and most comprehensive independent research charities in Scotland. Unlike most medical research charities, our funding isn't restricted to any one disease or condition, we support high-quality research that aims to improve the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of all diseases and disease mechanisms.

Awards in the past 20 years

The following are some of the awards we made for research into diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

logo Professor Will Shu (School of Engineering & Physical Sciences) will be supervising Dirk-Jan Cornelissen during the PhD studentship, "3D-Cell printing for scalable, in vitro production of functional, microencapsulated pancreatic islets for the treatment of type I diabetes mellitus". This research will also involve close working with Roslin Cellab Ltd.
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a life-threatening insulin-deficiency disease caused by the loss of beta cells in the pancreas. It is usually first diagnosed in children or young adults and lasts a lifetime. In Scotland, there are 210,000 people diagnosed with diabetes, with 10% having T1D. The direct cost of T1D to the NHS is £1 billion per year, with additional indirect costs of around £0.9 billion per year. Islet transplantation for T1D is an established clinical therapy with excellent outcomes. It involves extracting islet cells (mainly made of beta cells) from the pancreas of a deceased donor and transplanting them to a T1D patient. However, this treatment is limited by the availability of human islets and the need for toxic chemical immunosuppression to minimise organ rejection. Currently, four donated human pancreases are needed to extract sufficient islets to treat one T1D patient. To overcome this acute shortage of pancreatic islets for transplantation, this project aims to develop a high-throughput bioprinting technology to manufacture transplantable, insulin-secreting artificial islets from renewable stem-cell sources. Further, by encapsulating islets with protective biomaterials, this new technique may potentially eliminate the need for immunosuppression and will address critical shortages in the supply of islets for transplantation purposes.

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Professor Malcolm Walkinshaw (Structural Biochemistry, Edinburgh University) to supervise Ms Andromachi Xypnitou during her PhD Studentship, "A novel structure-based drug discovery approach for phosphatase enzymes" This research will also involve close working with TPP Global Development Ltd
Protein phosphatase enzymes have vital roles in many cellular processes and are implicated in a growing number of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular, neurological, immunological and metabolic diseases. Conventional laboratory-based drug discovery approaches have met with limited success in this enzyme family. New strategies to identify small molecules which modulate the function of these enzymes offer an exciting opportunity to unlock the therapeutic potential of this enzyme class. The project will adopt a novel drug discovery strategy utilising a unique set of computational tools and biophysical techniques to identify small molecule inhibitors at selected phosphatases. Following selection of appropriate phosphatase targets based on relevance to disease and availability of suitable 3D protein structures, a suite of 'in silico' computational tools will be used to mine 3D databases to identify molecules that will bind to 'pockets' on the enzymes. Biochemical techniques will then be used to produce the enzymes in the laboratory and various biophysical approaches will be used to measure binding of the novel molecules at the target phosphatase enzyme(s). Ultimately, the project will provide novel chemical starting points for optimisation which may then yield candidate drugs to treat human disease.

£147,067 over 24 months to Dr Vicky MacRae & Professor Colin Farquharson (Roslin Institute & Royal [Dick] Vet School, Edinburgh), Professor Sayed Ahmed (Child Health, Glasgow University) & Dr Nicholas Morton (Cardiovascular Scienes, QMRI, Edinburgh) for an investigation of the regulation of insulin signalling in bone by PC-1.
The body's production of and reaction to insulin is critical to glucose metabolism and insulin resistance plays a fundamental part in conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Bone has recently emerged as also being able to regulate glucose metabolism, but little is known about the processes involved. A protein called plasma cell membrane glycoprotein-1 (PC-1) can regulate glucose metabolism in muscle and adipose tissue, but it is not known how important it is in controlling insulin levels, particularly in bone. This study will investigate the mechanisms used by bone in regulating glucose metabolism.

£149,947 over 24 months to Dr Nancy Sabatier (Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh) for an investigation of hypothalamic mechanisms in obesity.
One in four UK adults is obese and, as obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, NHS costs are escalating. Tackling obesity is a policy priority. Before we can develop drugs to combat obesity however, we first need to find viable drug targets. How much we eat is largely controlled by a balance between brain signals of hunger and satiety ('fullness') and obesity often develops because of a defect in the 'fullness' signalling. Many nerve cells in one part of the hypothalamus express the SF1 gene. They are the only brain neurones to do so and mutations in the gene are associated with obesity. By learning exactly what part these neurones play in appetite, studying how they respond to two hormones involved in meal termination and how their responses change when an animal becomes obese, this project will assess whether they are likely to be a good target for therapeutic intervention.

£71,758 over two years to Dr Moffat J. Nyirenda & Professor Jonathan R. Seckl (Molecular Medicine Centre, Edinburgh University) for an investigation of the molecular mechanisms underlying induction of hepatic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) expression in prenatal glucocorticoid exposure and programming of adult hypoglycaemia.
There is a known link between low weight at birth and an increased likelihood to develop diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. By studying a liver enzyme which catalyses the synthesis of glucose, this research aims to look at potential reasons for this link.

£70,000 over two years to Dr James Shaw (Diabetes Research Laboratory, Aberdeen University) and Charlotte Maltin (Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen) for an evaluation of the potential for 'off-the-shelf' gene therapy for diabetes by simple intramuscular injection of an insulin gene.

£66,558 over 18 months to Drs Faisel Khan, Margaret McLaren, Stephen A. Greene & Alexander Hill and Professor Jill F. Belch (Medicine, Dundee University) to study the effects of oral antioxidants and L-arginine on macrovascular function in young people with Type I diabetes mellitus.

£2,960 to Drs Russell L. Woods & Stephen J. Tregear (Vision Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University) to purchase a camera attachment for use in screening for diabetic retinopathy using cone-specific perimetry.

£10,124 to Dr Brian M. Frier & Dr Petros Perros (Diabetes), Dr C. Counsell (Medical Neurology, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary) & Professor T. Wallace Macfarlane (Glasgow Dental Hospital & School) for a year-long study of altered taste sensation in Type II diabetes.