Strelitz Diabetes Center awarded a two-year grant for 12-LO research

Dr. Jerry Nadler leads research team at Eastern Virginia Medical School

Scientists at Eastern Virginia Medical School's Strelitz Diabetes Center have been awarded a two-year grant totaling $472,683 by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

The center's research team, led by Jerry Nadler, MD, professor and chair of internal medicine and director of the center, has been studying the role of an enzyme called 12- Lipoxygenase (12-LO) in damaging insulin-producing beta cells, a condition that leads to Type 1 Diabetes. "We have successfully identified a vital step in the development of Type 1 diabetes and we are hopeful that blocking this enzyme could hold the key to engineering breakthrough new treatments," Dr. Nadler said.

12-LO is a protein-based enzyme in beta cells that produces lipids. These lipids are highly pro-inflammatory and can lead to the death of beta cells. EVMS researchers have demonstrated that deletion of the gene that produces 12-LO in animal models prevents the development of Type 1 Diabetes at a rate of nearly 100 percent.

The group has now identified the particular form of 12-LO found in human insulin producing cells. And, while still preliminary, this research could help scientists develop a novel therapeutic approach to stop beta cells from being destroyed and to allow functional regeneration of beta cells in Type 1 Diabetes patients. Working with Ted Holman, PhD, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the EVMS team hopes to use these findings to help develop a new drug.

"We are fortunate to be working with Dr. Holman, who has discovered some very promising compounds that can reduce 12-LO activity. Now, with the generosity and support of the JDRF, we can apply this technology to help prevent the destruction of beta cells and allow the regeneration of insulin-producing cells in Type 1 Diabetes," Dr. Nadler said.

"Dr. Nadler and his team have made amazing strides in our understanding of how lipoxygenase may contribute to the development of diabetes and opens the possibility of directly targeting this enzyme for treatment," Dr. Holman said. "Based on this important discovery, Dr. Nadler has already begun testing our lipoxygenase inhibitors in the hopes of generating new treatments for diabetes. His preliminary results are very promising and with his recent funding by the JDRF, we hope to make further progress."

"JDRF is thrilled to be supporting Dr. Nadler's work at EVMS as this research may represent an important step toward the development of a new therapeutic strategy for treating type 1 diabetes," said Patricia Kilian, PhD, director of regeneration at JDRF.

Often diagnosed in children and young adults, Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder associated with the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. Without insulin, the body is unable to process sugars and starches leaving it unable to convert them into energy for movement, growth, repair and other functions.

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