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Hjelt Foundation grants for mechanistic studies of type 2 diabetes

A researcher in the lab.
Karl Bacos, a researcher in diabetes and epigenetics, receives a generous grant from the Hjelt Diabetes Foundation. Photo: Petra Olsson

Three researchers at Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC) receive generous grants from the Hjelt Diabetes Foundation in 2021. Ola Hansson, Karl Bacos and Malin Fex have been awarded 45 000 euros each for their research projects. A common aim is to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms behind type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes has become a major health issue with nearly half a billion people living with the disease today. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes worldwide.

Three research projects at Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC) receive generous grants from the Hjelt Diabetes Foundation during 2021. An important goal with the projects is to better understand the mechanisms behind type 2 diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, the ability of the muscles to take up glucose is impaired. Ola Hansson is an associate professor of functional genomics. He will use the grant from the Hjelt Diabetes Foundation to explore the mechanisms behind muscle insulin sensitivity.

“The grant from the foundation means a lot and we are very grateful. An important goal with our project is to identify new pharmacological candidates that can improve muscle health in patients with type 2 diabetes,” says Ola Hansson.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes

The causes of type 2 diabetes are not fully understood but the disease results from a combination of environmental triggers and genetic predisposition. Karl Bacos, an associate professor in experimental diabetes research, is awarded 45 000 euro for a project that explores the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

Previously, the team has identified epigenetic changes that occur in islets of Langerhans from obese non-diabetic individuals. Epigenetic changes are caused by the influence of the environment and can alter the function of our inherited genes. The funds will be used to collect further evidence that epigenetic changes are causing cellular dysfunction and disease.

“This grant means a lot and will allow us to do mechanistic studies that hopefully will give us a better understanding of the role of obesity in the development of the disease. An important long term goal is to reveal cellular targets for new, potentially preventive, therapeutics,” says Karl Bacos.

The role of melatonin

The sleep-promoting hormone melatonin not only regulates sleep but is also involved in regulating the body’s energy levels. Malin Fex, an associate professor in molecular metabolism, is currently studying the role of melatonin in type 2 diabetes. 

Previous research has shown that a genetic variant of a protein that binds melatonin is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Malin Fex wants to develop a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms to find new treatments for people with a genetic risk to develop type 2 diabetes. The grant from the Hjelt Diabetes Foundation will allow her to add a researcher to the project team. 

“Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease that can cause severe complications and affect the whole body. We need to study the disease from many different perspectives to come up with innovative therapeutic strategies to combat type 2 diabetes,” says Malin Fex.