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News Release

Joslin search for protective factors against diabetic retinopathy and kidney disease gets boost from NIDDK/NIH

$3.9 million Type 1 Diabetes Impact (DP3) grant will enable work to continue on discoveries made by the Joslin 50-Year Medalist Study

BOSTON — October 27, 2011 — Joslin Diabetes Center has received a $3.9 million DP3 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, to identify protective factors that enable many Joslin 50-Year Medalists to remain free of commonly occurring diabetes complications.

George King, M.D., is head of the Dianne Nunnally Hoppes Laboratory for Diabetes Complications and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Joslin has been awarding 50-Year Medals to people with insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes since 1972. Many of the Medalists participate in the Joslin 50-Year Medalist Study, which examines this select cohort to discover the secrets of their long-term survival.

In April 2011 the study, led by George L. King, M.D., chief scientific officer, reported in Diabetes Care that a high proportion of the 50-Year Medalists remained free of diabetic retinopathy, kidney disease (nephropathy), neuropathy or cardiovascular disease, in spite of living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years or more.

Diabetes complications can include damage to the retina, the kidneys, the nerves, and the blood vessels. Until now, complications research has focused on the causes of complications and treatments of complications after they have occurred.  The findings of the 50-Year Medalist Study could change the direction of complications research.

“This search for protective rather than risk factors is part of a paradigm shift in Joslin’s diabetes complications studies,” says Dr. King, who also is head of the Dianne Nunnally Hoppes Laboratory for Diabetes Complications and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Using the support provided by the DP3 grant, King and his team will identify the factors that induce protection against long-term complications in the 50-Year Medalists. These factors could provide important biomarkers and therapeutic agents to prevent and halt diabetic retinopathy and diabetic nephropathy, two complications that significantly diminish lifespan and the quality of life of people living with type 1 diabetes. 

The DP3 grant program at the NIDDK was established to fund bold and highly innovative new approaches to fundamental scientific problems that relate to type 1 diabetes.  The amount of Joslin’s award was close to the highest level of funding made under the program.

Other members of the 50-Year Medalist Study team include: Hillary Keenan, Ph.D., Andrzej Krolewski, M.D., Ph.D., Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D., Edward Feener, Ph.D., Jennifer Sun, M.D., M.P.H., and Alessandro Doria, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., all from Joslin Diabetes Center; plus Marian Rewers, M.D., and Brian Bucca, O.D., both from Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes.

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