Garvan Diabetes Researcher Receives Prestigious Fellowship

Garvan researcher Dr Jerry Greenfield has received the prestigious Don Chisholm Senior Fellow in Clinical Diabetes.

Dr Jerry Greenfield and Prof Don Chisholm

06 October 2010

Garvan researcher Dr Jerry Greenfield is honoured to have been appointed the Don Chisholm Senior Fellow in Clinical Diabetes Research. The Fellowship is named in honour of Professor Don Chisholm, one of Garvan’s most distinguished scientists and clinicians, and a world-renowned expert on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

The Fellowship was established thanks to a significant contribution from Glaxo Smith Kline, augmented by gifts from other supporters.

“I am delighted this exceptional researcher has received this important acknowledgement and support for his research. His work is making significant inroads in our understanding of diabetes and how to better manage and treat the disease,” said Prof Don Chisholm AO, Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Garvan.

Dr Jerry Greenfield will use the research Fellowship to progress a number of key research projects investigating the cause of insulin resistance. The aim of his research is to better understand the pathways leading to Type 2 diabetes onset to ultimately pave the way for new treatments.

In a collaboration with Prof David James’ research group, Dr Greenfield is investigating what goes wrong in human muscle in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes, leading to limited glucose uptake. In the largest study of its kind, 80 people were recruited in four groups; people with and without Type 2 diabetes, along with overweight people and those in a healthy weight range. Dr Greenfield is particularly interested in the group of overweight subjects with high insulin sensitivity: “This is a very unusual combination, and it can tell us a lot about what protects us from developing diabetes and insulin resistance.”

Dr Greenfield is also investigating the effects of the amino acid glutamine on blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetes patients. Glutamine is used in other areas of clinical practice, however this research is honing in on its specific affect on insulin secretion. When taken with a meal glutamine has been shown to increase blood concentrations of the hormone GLP-1 – one of the main controllers of insulin secretion. It is hoped this research will show that glutamine improves blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetic patients, offering a possible new treatment for the disease.

In further work, Dr Greenfield is seeking to determine whether the sympathetic nervous system plays a role in causing insulin resistance, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.  It is thought that changes in the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight or flight response when we are stressed, may be abnormal in people with obesity and may contribute to insulin resistance. A better understanding of the links between metabolic disease and sympathetic abnormalities may assist in developing targeted therapies to reduce cardiovascular risk in people with Type 2 diabetes. 

“I’m extremely grateful to have received this Fellowship. It holds special significance for me since Don Chisholm was one of my former supervisors and we still enjoy a close professional relationship.”

Diabetes is Australia’s fastest growing chronic disease, with almost 300 Australians developing Type 2 diabetes every day. Many more have diabetes but do not know it. About 50% of people who have diabetes are not yet diagnosed. By 2031, it is estimated that 3.3 million Australians will have Type 2 diabetes. 

Another outstanding researcher at the Garvan, Dr James Cantley, has been awarded the Don Chisholm Fellowship in Fundamental Diabetes Research.


The Don Chisholm Senior Fellow in Clinical Diabetes is supported by a grant from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

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