Diabetes Australia recognition for Garvan researcher

Garvan congratulates Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet (Diabetes and Metabolism Division), who has been awarded the 2016 ADS Diabetes Australia Research Grant in support of her research into body acidity and insulin resistance.

Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet and The Hon. Sarah Mitchell

15 July 2016

Garvan congratulates Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet (Diabetes and Metabolism Division), who has been awarded the 2016 Australian Diabetes Society (ADS) Diabetes Australia Research Grant. Dr Samocha-Bonet accepted the award, which provides $60,000 towards her research into body acidity and insulin resistance, at an event hosted by Diabetes Australia at NSW Parliament House last night.

Dr Samocha-Bonet is a clinical researcher and expert in insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes in which the body’s insulin response becomes less effective, leading to higher-than-normal blood sugar. Her winning research proposal (‘Body acid/base balance and insulin resistance in obesity’) sets out her plans to investigate the impact of body pH (acid-base balance) on the development of insulin resistance.

Dr Samocha-Bonet says, “Our bodies maintain pH balance within a narrow range – but within that range, it is becoming clear that a more acidic pH is related to insulin resistance and diabetes.

“The typical Western diet – which is high in protein but low in fruit and vegetables – promotes a more acidic body pH, which seems to be bad news for our diabetes risk.

“So, we wanted to see whether we could lessen an individual’s insulin resistance state by treating them with a medication to make blood more alkaline (less acidic).

“Our study involves treating 15-20 obese individuals with sodium bicarbonate – baking soda, in other words. We will measure body acidity and insulin resistance before, during and after the month-long treatment, and we predict that we’ll observe a decrease in insulin resistance – that is, a step backwards on the path to diabetes.

“One exciting aspect of our idea is that sodium bicarbonate is cheap, safe and readily available. It’s already used as an over-the-counter medication for heartburn and stomach acidity – so it’s a very simple intervention that has the potential to be widely applicable in the future.

Dr Samocha-Bonet says she’s humbled and delighted to receive the award. “I value the support of ADS and of Diabetes Australia, and I’m thrilled to be able to carry out this clinical research project.

“The research is really based on a very simple idea. Sometimes the simple ideas are the most effective – and we certainly hope that is the case this time.”

Dr Samocha-Bonet’s award marks the second time in two years that the ADS Diabetes Australia Research Grant has been awarded to a Garvan researcher. In 2015, Dr Mohammed Bensellam won the award with a research proposal entitled ‘Generation of islets in adipose tissue by Id3 ablation’.

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