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Study to explore new targeted treatment approach for type 2 diabetes

With diabetes cases increasing in Canada, research on treating the disease is becoming even more important. An estimated one-third of Canadians have diabetes or pre-diabetes, with type 2 diabetes representing 90 per cent of cases.

With support from a federal research award, Dr. Sarah Gray, an associate professor with the UBC Northern Medical Program, is exploring a unique way to treat type 2 diabetes. The two-year $198,743 project is funded by the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund, through the three federal research funding agencies (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council).

“Fat, or adipose tissue, plays an important role in keeping our metabolism running smoothly. In obesity, this tissue increases and also becomes dysfunctional, leading to complications such as type 2 diabetes,” said Gray. “While there have been drugs used to treat diabetes that restore adipose tissue function, they can have detrimental side effects on cardiovascular and bone health.”

“So we are going to examine the use of novel drug-delivery tools to target anti-diabetic drugs specifically to fat tissue.”

Working closely with Dr. Urs Häfeli a Professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia who develops novel drug delivery tools, Gray will test how magnetic nanoparticles developed by Häfeli can be used in type 2 diabetes treatment. Magnetic nanoparticles are a drug delivery tool that has been tested for other clinical interventions such as cancer treatment and medical imaging.

“Our goal is to concentrate the drugs in fat where they can act to improve metabolism, without inducing negative side-effects on the body,” explains Gray. “We hope to provide evidence that will support safe and effective therapeutics for people living with type 2 diabetes.

“Our federal research funding enables us to now test the effectiveness of this novel drug delivery system in disease models of obesity and diabetes.” 

The New Frontiers in Research Fund – Exploration award will support experiments performed in Hafeli and Gray’s labs which will bring together their complementary expertise in drug delivery and diabetes, respectively. The project will also provide training opportunities for graduate students at both UNBC and UBC.

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