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Diabetes Research

Pancreas Biology

Pancreatic islets are clusters of cells within the pancreas that produce hormones such as insulin and glucagon that control the levels of sugars in the bloodstream. Dysfunction of the pancreatic islet leads to diabetes. Our research aims to uncover mechanisms of islet dysfunction that can lead to diabetes in children. This knowledge aims to ultimately develop new treatments. To learn more about our research areas click the links below.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes Studies

Our team of experts use various traditional and cutting-edge multi-disciplinary tools spanning cell biology, biochemistry, endocrine physiology, and immunology, to investigate the biology and function of the pancreas in the context of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and the causes of islet loss post-transplantation. Our studies aim to understand the roles of endocrine islet cells, immune cells, vasculature and exocrine cells, in the progression of T1D, with a long-term view of developing new therapies for T1D and improving the outcome of clinical islet transplantation.   

Type 2 Diabetes Studies

The Role of the HNF1α variant in the development of youth onset Type 2 Diabetes

A private and novel variant in the Hepatic Nuclear Factor-1alpha (HNF1α) gene was established as a potent genetic risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes in First Nations (Anisininew) youth. With input from Indigenous scholars and First Nations communities, this project uses mouse and cellular models with the HNF1α variant to investigate how it impacts insulin secretion and the complications of diabetes and whether traditional diet patterns improve metabolic health.

Restoring Circadian Rhythms in beta cells

Circadian rhythms are internal biological “clocks” that align our internal biology with the external environment. Increasing evidence shows that the disruption of circadian rhythms can result in metabolic dysfunction. This research investigates how daily cycles in insulin secretion are regulated and whether time-restricted feeding can override the circadian dysfunction in the daily cycles of insulin secretion in diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Studies

Throughout pregnancy energy demands increase for both the mother and growing baby.  In the pancreas, during pregnancy there are increases in the numbers of insulin-producing beta cells, insulin production and secretion. However, when the pancreas is unable to adapt to the increased insulin demand during pregnancy, gestational diabetes can result. This research uses sophisticated experimental models, technologies and single cell gene expression analyses to investigate how genes and diets are involved in the dysregulation of these processes.
Dr. Vern Dolinsky
Dr. Christine Doucette