IMIDIA identifies signs of diabetes risk
Researchers from IMI’s IMIDIA project have uncovered clues that could help to identify people at risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes arises when the beta cells of the pancreas fail to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels correctly. There is currently no cure for diabetes, and a lot of research focuses on improving our understanding of the underlying causes of the disease. ###Writing in the journal Molecular Metabolism, the researchers explain how they have identified a gene called Elovl2 that appears to play a key role in insulin secretion. According to the team, Elovl2 codes for an enzyme that makes a poly-unsaturated fatty acid called DHA. The researchers confirmed its role in insulin secretion in both mice and human cell lines. A second paper, in Cell Reports, demonstrates that the levels of certain lipids (fats) in people’s blood plasma appear to be raised up to nine years before diagnosis. Scientists from the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) were involved in both papers. In a press release, they point out that the studies brought together academic teams, pharmaceutical companies, and a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME), and that the results were cross validated through the IMIDIA project. ‘The findings therefore highlight the instrumental role of public-private partnerships, such as the IMI, in enabling such advances and improve public health,’ they conclude.
IMI diabetes projects deepen cooperation
IMI’s three diabetes projects – IMIDIA, SUMMIT and DIRECT – are set to deepen their cooperation following the signature of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that formally creates the ‘IMI Diabetes Platform’. ‘With a combined budget of ###€100 million and the involvement of over 300 leading experts in diabetes, this is one of the world’s leading initiatives in this area focusing on overcoming key bottlenecks for novel therapies and improved disease management,’ the projects write in a press release announcing the MoU. ‘The importance of the findings of the IMI diabetes projects will be strongly increased by the multiple opportunities for information exchange now enabled by the implementation of a formal collaboration framework for the IMI Diabetes Platform.’ The projects have already been collaborating informally for some time. For example, they jointly organised a symposium to present their results at the recent annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Barcelona.
IMI diabetes projects sign Memorandum of Understanding
IMI currently has three projects working on diabetes – DIRECT, SUMMIT, and IMIDIA – which have a combined budget of###just over€100 million. The projects tackle diabetes in different ways. For example, IMIDIA focuses on studying the pancreatic beta cells which are responsible for producing insulin; it aims to use this knowledge develop treatments that can slow down the progress of diabetes. Meanwhile, SUMMIT’s work addresses the urgent need for new treatments to tackle the complications associated with diabetes, such as eye, kidney, and blood vessel problems. Finally, DIRECT takes a personalised medicine approach to diabetes, as it works to identify different varieties of diabetes and effective treatments to tackle them. The projects already work together on an informal basis (as evidenced by their new joint leaflet produced with the support of the IMI Executive Office). However, IMIDIA and SUMMIT have now taken their collaboration to a new level with the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU covers the handling of intellectual property, the transfer of knowledge and materials, and confidentiality. The projects believe that the MoU could serve as a template for collaboration between other IMI projects in the future.
IMIDIA secures additional funding from major diabetes charity
IMI diabetes project IMIDIA has secured additional support of up to $1 million (approx. € 750 000) in funding from the US-based JDRF , the world’s largest supporter of research to cure, treat, and prevent type 1 diabetes (T1D). ### The additional support allows IMIDIA participants to expand their research efforts that are focused on speeding up the search for a cure for diabetes. The first two JDRF-funded projects are already underway, and more are in the pipeline. JDRF will support projects that address issues not covered by IMIDIA’s original work plan, thereby ensuring that the funds will be used for novel research. ‘IMI is an attractive partner for JDRF, because through their IMIDIA project, we share a common goal of accelerating the development of better treatments and cures for type 1 diabetes,’ commented Adrianne Wong, Senior Scientist for Cure Therapies at JDRF.
- Read the joint IMI - IMIDIA– JDRF press release
Cell Metabolism paper picks out IMI diabetes project
An article in Cell Metabolism on the urgent need to develop novel treatments for diabetes and obesity highlights the IMI project IMIDIA as the way forward. ### ‘Future success requires a closer relationship between industry and academia as well as active knowledge sharing between research groups through multiparty partnerships and consortia,’ the paper reads. ‘The Innovative Medicines Initiative for Diabetes is an excellent example.’ The paper also underscores the need for more personalised medicine in diabetes; this will be addressed in the IMI project DIRECT, which will be launched shortly.
IMIDIA team reveals gene that affects insulin secretion
Scientists from the IMI project IMIDIA have identified a gene that disrupts insulin secretion in individuals with a rare form of type 2 diabetes called maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY). ### The gene produces a protein called PASK (PAS kinase). Normally, when blood sugar levels are low, insulin production is close to zero. However, in people with the mutated form of PASK, insulin production at low blood sugar levels is rather high. The researchers believe that this may render other tissues in the body less responsive to insulin, causing problems when blood sugar levels rise. The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry , represent the first demonstration in humans that the PASK protein plays a key role in insulin secretion. The discovery may have implications for diabetes treatment. ‘PASK is an interesting potential drug target since the structure of the protein lends itself to the binding of small molecules,’ explains Guy Rutter of Imperial College London in the UK, who lead the research. ‘The development of such compounds may provide new regulators of insulin secretion which may be of value in the clinic in years to come.’
IMI experts make major diabetes research breakthrough
Researchers from the IMI project IMIDIA have generated a human pancreatic beta cell line that not only survives in the lab, but behaves in much the same way as beta cells in the body. ### When pancreatic beta cells malfunction, the result is diabetes. Scientists are therefore keen to study these cells in the lab to determine the underlying causes of diabetes and work out ways of treating and even curing it. Until now, researchers have had to rely on rodent beta cell lines for studies in the lab. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, IMIDIA researchers explain how they generated the novel human cell line and state: ‘These cells represent a unique tool for large-scale drug discovery and provide a preclinical model for cell replacement therapy in diabetes.’