Exploiting gene therapy to identify diabetes treatments

Exploiting gene therapy to identify diabetes treatments

Diabetes image

The prevalence of diabetes continues to rise at a staggering pace. Estimates reveal that 463 million adults are currently living with diabetes, which is predicted to rise to 700 million by 2045. This is due to surges in type 2 diabetes (T2D) and associated risk factors including unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and obesity. Dr George Mcilroy leads research at the Rowett Institute to identify novel T2D therapeutic treatments to combat this growing health concern.

Adipose tissue (body fat) is essential to store energy from the diet and release it when required. In obesity, excessive adipose tissue can cause metabolic disorders such as fatty liver disease and T2D. However, there are individuals unable to make any body fat. This rare condition is called lipodystrophy. Patients with lipodystrophy develop severe metabolic complications, like those observed in obesity.

To gain a better understanding of this devastating condition, Dr Mcilroy has performed studies in animals with lipodystrophy. Using these models, his research has investigated the development of metabolic disease and consequences to immune function in lipodystrophy.

More recently, his research has used viruses to investigate the role of the liver in the development of metabolic disease in lipodystrophy. This work led to an EFSD/Lilly Young Investigator Research Award to examine whether virus mediated gene therapy could prevent diabetes in lipodystrophy. Successful preliminary data from this project has resulted in Dr Mcilroy being awarded the prestigious R.D. Lawrence Fellowship, funded by Diabetes UK.

With this funding, Dr Mcilroy will combine gene therapy with epigenetic and gene expression analysis at single cell resolution (in collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark). This work aims to identify novel treatment opportunities for all patients suffering from T2D.

This research is funded by The Wellcome Trust ISSF Scheme, the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes/Lilly and Diabetes UK