ALDO ROSSINI, MD, AWARDED NATION’S HIGHEST HONOR FOR DIABETES RESEARCH

The second UMass Medical School researcher to receive the prestigious award

March 3, 2003

WORCESTER, Mass. — Aldo A. Rossini, MD, the William and Doris Krupp Professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Diabetes at UMass Medical School, is the recipient of the 2003 Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement presented by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The medal is the highest scientific honor given by the ADA, in recognition of the recipient’s long-term achievement in the study of diabetes.

“I am excited and honored to receive this award,” said Dr. Rossini. “I prefer, however, to see this as recognition of my team. What we do here is not just about me. It’s about all the people, the scientists, the technicians, who work together as a team. Some people have been with me for almost for twenty years.  Because they are such a dedicated and focused group, we’ve developed an interactive model that allows us to achieve. They deserve the credit as much as I do.”

Rossini directs the Diabetes Endocrine Research Center (DERC) at UMMS, one of only 12 such centers in the country established by the National Institutes of Health. He is an international leader in the quest to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes (often called juvenile diabetes), a disease that afflicts approximately 1.7 million people in the United States.  People with Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin, which is needed for the body to use and regulate sugar levels in the blood.

Through research centered on tolerance in autoimmunity and transplant immunology, Rossini’s team is seeking a way to allow patients to receive transplants of insulin-producing cells (islets) without the need for potentially harmful anti-rejection drugs. Rossini has made major advances in immune system response to pancreas cell transplantation and the immunological basis for organ rejection.  Specifically, he and his lab have made discoveries that suggest the viability of an approach that establishes “tolerance” in a body that is being readied to accept transplanted islet cells. This work was hailed by Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Letter as one of the “Top Ten Medical Advances of 1995.”

“Dr. Rossini has that admirable combination of bedside clinical skills and incredible research acumen that has created a body of leading edge work on diabetes which is renowned on a global scale,” said Aaron Lazare, MD, chancellor and dean of the Medical School. “The Banting Medal is a fitting tribute for him, and indicative of our school’s research efforts, but more importantly, Dr. Rossini and his tremendous team are giving hope to millions that a cure for this disease may be within reach in our lifetime.”

Under Rossini’s leadership, UMMS is among 18 centers worldwide now participating in a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health with the Immune Tolerance Network to replicate and expand upon the “Edmonton Protocol” a procedure developed by researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada to reverse the insulin dependence of diabetics through islet cell transplantation. Over the next year, a total of 40 people worldwide will receive islet cell transplants following the study guidelines of the Edmonton Protocol; the UMMS trial has accepted four participants. In the summer of 2002 Dr. Rossini’s team successfully replicated the protocol, transplanting islet cells into two Type 1 diabetics. Both patients will return this spring for the second round of islet transplantation that will, it is hoped, relieve them of the need to inject insulin to manage their diabetes.

In his transplantation research, Dr. Rossini is collaborating with a number of UMMS basic scientists, including Michael P. Czech PhD, professor and chair of Molecular Medicine and professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology , who was the 2000 recipient of the ADA Banting Medal for his years of research in Type 2 diabetes (often called adult onset diabetes) which afflicts some 16 million people in the United States.  Those with Type 2 diabetes do produce insulin but are unable to use it properly.

“The awarding of the Banting Medal to Dr. Rossini is but one more indication that UMass is one of the leading research medical schools in the country,” said John L. Sullivan, MD, director of the school’s Office of Research and professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine. “The combination of the Rossini and Czech laboratories makes UMass one of the leading institutions in the world for research on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.”

The Banting Medal is named in honor of Sir Frederick Grant Banting (1891-1941), a Canadian physician, physiologist and Nobel laureate who co-discovered insulin in 1922. The award is presented annually by the American Diabetes Association, the nation’s leading voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information, and advocacy. Founded in 1940, the Association funds research, publishes scientific findings and provides information and services to people with diabetes, their families, health care professionals and the public. Rossini will accept the Banting Medal and deliver a lecture at the ADA’s annual Scientific Sessions this June in New Orleans.

Rossini joined UMMS in 1978 following two years as a physician at the Joslin Clinic in Boston, a world-renowned diabetes research center. His career in medical science also includes six years of teaching and research at the Harvard Medical School and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston (now part of Brigham and Women’s).  Rossini received his medical degree from the St. Louis University School of Medicine and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton.

A lead author or contributor to more than 140 journal articles related to his research on diabetes, Rossini has written 84 reviews and book chapters, and authored or contributed to over 100 scientific abstracts. He is a member of the American Diabetes Association, the American College of Physicians, the Greater Boston Diabetes Society Inc., and is an advisor to the Boston Diabetes Club. 

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 $143 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources.  Research funding enables UMMS scientists to explore human disease from the molecular level to large-scale clinical trials.  Basic and clinical research leads to new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Visit  www.umassmed.edu for additional information.

 

Contact:  

Michael Cohen, 508-856-2000