17 September 2015
The Garvan Institute of Medical Research congratulates Dr Katherine Tonks, who has won the Australian Diabetes Society (ADS) President’s Young Investigator Award. Dr Tonks received the award in recognition of her outstanding oral presentation at the recent ADS annual scientific meeting (26-28 August, Adelaide). Dr Tonks shared the award with Laurence Trahair (University of Adelaide and Royal Adelaide Hospital).
Dr Tonks is an endocrinologist in the Department of Endocrinology at St Vincent’s Hospital and a clinical researcher in Garvan’s Clinical Diabetes, Appetite and Metabolism laboratory. She is in the final stages of her PhD. The research she presented is the result of a collaboration between the laboratories of Associate Professors Jerry Greenfield and Jacqueline Center, of Garvan, and Associate Professor Chris White from Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital.
In Dr Tonks’ presentation, she explored the origins of the ‘fracture paradox’ in diabetes: the observation that obese individuals have a strong, dense bone structure, but that those who also have Type II diabetes are nonetheless at high risk of breaking a bone.
Dr Tonks’ research explored the effect of diabetes (which is a state of insulin resistance) on bone turnover – in which old bone is removed and new bone introduced. Obesity is associated with low bone turnover so, to disentangle the roles of obesity and diabetes, Dr Tonks worked with both insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive obese individuals.
She found that bone turnover is slowed in insulin-resistant obesity, but not in insulin-sensitive obesity, and that high circulating levels of insulin are responsible for the suppression of bone turnover.
Dr Tonks’ findings could lead to changes in the clinical management of diabetes. In future, clinicians might, for instance, examine markers of bone turnover alongside investigations into bone mineral density. Determining an individual’s risk of fracture could, in turn, inform treatment choices.
The ADS Poster Prize was won by Lewin Small, a PhD student in Garvan’s Insulin Action and Energy Metabolism laboratory.