07 September 2010
Garvan PhD student David Pedersen won the Pincus Taft Junior Investigator Award last week at the Australian Diabetes Society’s annual conference.
One of a handful of early career diabetes researchers Australia-wide selected to present their findings, David was judged on his work, his presentation and the Q&A session afterwards.
People with Type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas that helps convert the sugar in their blood into energy in their muscles. At the same time, their fat and muscle cells become less able to respond to insulin, a phenomenon known as ‘insulin resistance’.
David has been investigating the effect of an enzyme known as ‘protein Kinase C epsilon’ (PKC epsilon) on insulin resistance in the liver and in tissues.
His work is an extension of findings published by his lab in 2007 - showing that PKC epsilon is active during diabetes and blocks the availability of insulin. The work at that time focused on insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
David has taken a slightly different focus, by examining the effects of the enzyme on peripheral tissues. “When you look at animals without PKC epsilon, you see that there’s less uptake of insulin in the liver, which means there’s more in circulation,” he said.
“More insulin in the blood helps move glucose into fat and muscle cells, so reducing blood sugar levels.”
“As well as seeing more insulin availability in animals without the enzyme, we’re seeing some changes in cellular proteins involved with insulin receptor trafficking – which may explain why blocking PKC epsilon reduces insulin clearance, which might help people with Type 2 diabetes.”
In addition to helping him with his scientific career in the longer term, the $2,000 award will pay for David’s air fare to Italy next month, where he will be presenting a poster at a conference in Naples.