The UNM School of Medicine recently received a grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to study the complications of diabetes. David VanderJagt, Ph.D., professor in the UNM Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, received a two-year, $200,000 grant to research the causes of diabetes complications, which include blindness, kidney failure and amputation of limbs.

More than 106,000 residents of New Mexico are estimated to have diabetes, only half of whom are diagnosed. Approximately 14 percent of New Mexicans over 40 have diabetes, and diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in New Mexico. Last year, 300 people went blind from diabetes in New Mexico, there were over 600 amputations due to diabetes and 450 people began kidney dialysis due to diabetes.

Diabetes causes hyperglycemia (excess sugar in the blood) due to the reduced availability of insulin. High blood sugar leads to the body's tissues being damaged, which leads to the complications of diabetes. VanderJagt is studying an enzyme, called 2-oxoaldehyde dehydrogenase, which may be able to protect tissues from the damage resulting from hyperglycemia. VanderJagt's goal is to confirm the identity of the 'activator compound,' which is known to be required for 2-oxoaldehyde dehydrogenase to be effective, but whose identity is as yet unknown.

""Understanding this process may identify new targets for therapeutic intervention to prevent the development of the complications of diabetes,"" said VanderJagt. ""If this activator compound is something that can be synthesized, it or a related compound could become a potential treatment for the prevention of the complications of diabetes.""

""The avoidance of and reversal of complications is one of the three major Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation research aims. The other two are achieving normal blood sugar levels and the prevention of diabetes and its recurrence,"" says Robert Goldstein, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer of JDRF. ""This research is an integral component of our international research effort.""

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's funds research on the complications of diabetes including: Development and implementation of genetic approaches for understanding susceptibility to complications in persons with Type 1 diabetes, application of gene therapy to prevent progression of and to reverse complications and clinical evaluation of new pharmacological agents for treatment of diabetes complications. JDRF has a special and critical role to play in helping to translate basic research in complications into new therapies that can benefit people with diabetes.
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