UMMS CONSORTIUM RECEIVES $300,000 FROM JUVENILE DIABETES RESEARCH FOUNDATION AND IACOCCA FOUNDATION

Innovative matching grant program will support studies into cellular stress and type 1 diabetes

November 1, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass.—Investigators from the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) will investigate the causes of type 1 diabetes with dual grants from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and The Iacocca Foundation. The grants, of $150,000 each, will support the research efforts of the UMMS Heat Shock Protein Consortium. Directed by Aldo A. Rossini, MD, the William and Doris Krupp Professor of Medicine and professor of medicine and molecular medicine, the Heat Shock Protein Consortium brings together a unique group of scientists with diverse expertise in the basic sciences.

“The innovation and synergy of the Consortium has already provided a mechanism for interaction and productivity in the field of science,” explained Dr. Rossini. “This synergy, we believe, will permit a new area of discovery by bringing together viewpoints of basic cell biology that are now focusing on the understanding of the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes.”

Heat shock proteins (Hsp) are essential proteins that protect the cell from a wide variety of environmental stresses. However, recent studies have demonstrated that altered Hsp function is associated with the development of a number of diseases, including type 1 diabetes. This funding will provide support for a number of innovative studies across a variety of departments and disciplines that aim to understand the Hsp abnormalities that may lead to the development and progression of type 1 diabetes.

“We are committed to supporting young investigators in their development into diabetes-related careers and this important funding will foster creative approaches to the question of the role of cellular stress and autoimmune diabetes,” explained Consortium investigator Dale L. Greiner, PhD, professor of medicine.

“Better understanding the pathogenesis of diabetes will help accelerate the pace of science leading to cures and treatments for type 1 diabetes and its complications across a range of research areas,” said Richard A. Insel, MD, Executive Vice President for Research at JDRF.  “We’re thrilled to be partnering with The Iacocca Foundation to fund this important science at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.”

Specific laboratories and their respective projects supported by the grants include:

  • Rita Bortell, PhD, associate professor of medicine—The role of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in immune cell functions and during pathogenesis of autoimmune diabetes
  • Stephen J. Doxsey, PhD, professor of molecular medicine, biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and cell biology—The novel role of centrosome proteins in insulin secretion and cellular stress
  • Dale L. Greiner, PhD, professor of medicine—The role of ER stress in islet transplantation
  • Gregory J. Pazour, PhD, associate professor of molecular medicine—The role of the pancreatic beta cell cilium in diabetes
  • Fumihiko Urano, MD, assistant professor of molecular medicine—The role of ER stress in autoimmune diabetes

“We’re excited about this partnership,” said Iaccoca Foundation Executive Director Dana Ball. “Our mission is to explore every possible avenue to find a cure for type 1 diabetes and we see incredible promise in the innovative approach UMass is taking.”

About the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

JDRF was founded in 1970 by the parents of children with type 1 diabetes—a disease that strikes children, adolescents, and adults suddenly, makes them insulin-dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications.  Since inception, JDRF has provided more than $1.16 billion to diabetes research worldwide, including $137 million over the past year.  More than 85 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education.  JDRF’s mission is constant: to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. 

About The Iacocca Foundation

The Iacocca Foundation was established in 1984 to fulfill a promise made by Lee Iacocca to his late wife, Mary Iacocca, who died from complications of type 1 diabetes.  Since its inception, the Foundation has funded more than $23 million in promising, breakthrough research projects. The Iacocca Foundation has grown to become a leader in the world’s battle against diabetes.

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $176 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The work of UMMS researcher Craig Mello, PhD, an investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and his colleague Andrew Fire, PhD, then of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, toward the discovery of RNA interference was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, hailed as the “Breakthrough of the Year” in 2002 by Science magazine and has spawned a new and promising field of research, the global impact of which may prove astounding. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.umassmed.edu.

Contact: Kelly Bishop

508.856.2000

ummsnews@umassmed.edu