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News Release

Joslin Receives $2 Million from Moses D. Nunnally, Jr. Charitable Trust to Support Research into Diabetes Complications

Gift will establish and support Dianne Nunnally Hoppes Laboratory for Diabetes Complications

BOSTON – Jan. 26, 2009 – Joslin Diabetes Center today announced it has received a $2 million gift from the Moses D. Nunnally, Jr. Charitable Trust to help fund research at the Center that seeks to combat diabetes-related complications and to benefit Joslin’s High Hopes Fund which supports the Center’s greatest needs in research, patient care and education.

In recognition of this gift, Joslin will re-name its complications lab The Dianne Nunnally Hoppes Laboratory for Diabetes Complications. Given in memory of Dianne Nunnally Hoppes, who was a resident of Richmond, VA and a long-time Joslin supporter and patient, the donation marks the first time a Joslin lab will be named for a donor.

“It was a privilege for me to get to know Dianne and her family,” said Ranch C. Kimball, President and CEO of Joslin Diabetes Center.  “Joslin is honored and grateful that the Nunnally-Hoppes family chose to support the Center and its efforts in the fight against the devastating complications of diabetes.”

Diabetes can affect many organs, but the most serious complications involve the eye, kidney, arteries, heart and nerves.  Under the direction of Joslin Research Director George L. King, M.D., scientists in The Dianne Nunnally Hoppes Laboratory for Diabetes Complications focus on determining how biochemical and genetic changes in blood vessels contribute to these long-term complications.

“Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults, end-stage renal disease, non-traumatic amputations and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. King.  “This funding will enable my lab to continue to make the discoveries and breakthroughs needed to prevent, reverse and cure these complications.”

Dr. King’s laboratory has shown that insulin can regulate many vascular functions and postulated that insulin in the normal state can prevent atherogenesis, or the accumulation of lipid plaques, while the loss of insulin’s normal action, in combination with the elevation of insulin levels found in insulin-resistant states, can lead to pro-atherogenic conditions in large blood vessels.

Other investigations include studying insulin’s role on cardiac contractility, as well as the formation of blood vessels in the heart and the lower extremities by increasing levels of a blood vessel growth factor called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Abnormalities in these areas contribute significantly to the complications of diabetes.

Dr. King’s lab also has a major effort to understand the molecular mechanism by which high blood glucose levels in people with diabetes damage the blood vessels in various organs. In 1989, Dr. King’s lab proposed that activation of protein kinase C (PKC) is the major signaling pathway by which high blood glucose causes complications in the retina, kidney and cardiovascular systems. In a series of studies, the researchers demonstrated that high blood glucose can activate PKC to induce vascular abnormalities, such as on the actions of VEGF, which Drs. King and Lloyd Paul Aiello, head of the Beetham Eye Institute at Joslin, have shown to be a major cause of late stages of diabetic eye disease. Dr. King’s laboratory also characterized an isoform-selective inhibitor to PKC, which, in diabetic animal models, prevents and stops the early changes of diabetic retinopathy and kidney disease. This PKC inhibitor is now in clinical trials as a potential treatment for diabetic eye disease.

Admirers of the research of Dr. King, who grew up in Richmond, Dianne and her husband were enthusiastic supporters of Joslin's annual "A Spoonful of Ginger" event that benefits the Joslin’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI).

“My mother would travel all the way from Richmond to Boston because she knew Joslin is the world’s best place for diabetes care,” said Janet Deskevich, Dianne’s daughter. “She held Joslin and the work it does for people with diabetes and their families in the highest regard.  Continuing to support the Center and naming a Joslin lab for her is the perfect way to honor her memory.”