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Scientists target viruses as possible trigger for Type 1 diabetes

Story Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2013 16:40:00 CST

EVMS has joined an international consortium that will conduct the most definitive research to date to determine if a virus causes Type 1 diabetes.

The virus study effort is a project of the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD). Funded by JDRF, nPOD obtains organs from donors with Type 1 diabetes to support research on the causes of this disease. In addition to supporting investigator-initiated studies, nPOD has formed working groups focused on addressing key questions in Type 1 diabetes research.

EVMS is working with the group that is targeting the family of viruses that scientists believe may trigger Type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas ceases to produce insulin, a hormone essential to life. People with Type 1 diabetes must take daily injections of insulin to survive. The disease often is first diagnosed in children and young people.

EVMS brings to the project its expertise in proteomics, which can identify viruses in a tissue sample. EVMS has developed internationally recognized expertise in proteomics, primarily in developing diagnostic tests for cancer.

"We at EVMS are excited to be part of this extraordinary team effort to answer one of the most burning questions in Type 1 diabetes,” says Jerry L. Nadler, MD, Chair of Internal Medicine and Director of the Strelitz Diabetes Center at EVMS. “Our proteomics expertise could definitively show whether one or more viruses is responsible for Type 1 diabetes. This important step will bring us closer to the day when we can prevent or even reverse this serious disease."

nPOD-V leaders developed a strategy to study the virus question in a comprehensive fashion, taking advantage of state-of-the-art technologies and the opportunity to have multiple investigators studying tissues from the same individual donors with a multitude of approaches.

“The team at EVMS brings to the table a strong background in diabetes research as well as excellent expertise in proteomics,” says Alberto Pugliese, MD, co-Executive Director of nPOD.

Julius O. Nyalwidhe, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology and a member of the Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center, oversees the EVMS proteomics component. EVMS is the sole research team using proteomics in the project.

Using a proteomic tool known as a mass spectrometer, the EVMS researchers will verify the presence of viruses and identify them in tissue samples.

Dr. Nyalwidhe says his involvement is part of an effort by nPOD leaders to assure that the results of the research are unbiased.

“(As cancer researchers) we have not been involved in previous discussions about whether a virus is involved in Type 1 diabetes, so we’re coming to it very objectively,” Dr. Nyalwidhe says. “And also the methods we are using are unbiased. So for the mass spectrometer, what you put in is what you get out. There is no way to tweak the results. That’s why it’s very exciting because we really don’t know what to expect.

“The possibility that a virus is causal to the development of diabetes is quite exciting,” says O. John Semmes, PhD, Director of the Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center. “I also think it is worth noting the success that can be attained through active collaboration between two major centers at EVMS.”

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, more than 13,000 young people are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

About JDRF

JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Driven by passionate, grassroots volunteers connected to children, adolescents, and adults with this disease, JDRF is now the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of all people affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners who share this goal.

Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.6 billion to diabetes research. Past JDRF efforts have helped to significantly advance the care of people with this disease, and have expanded the critical scientific understanding of T1D. JDRF will not rest until T1D is fully conquered. More than 80 percent of JDRF's expenditures directly support research and research-related education. For more information, please visit