JDF awards $10 Million to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh for new research center to help speed diabetes cure

To expedite the search for a cure to Type 1 Diabetes, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International (JDF) has awarded a $10 million grant to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh to establish the JDF Center for Gene Therapy Approaches to Type 1 Diabetes.

The JDF Center brings together world-renowned experts in the areas of diabetes, gene therapy, immunology and transplantation with a common goal of finding a cure for diabetes through islet cell transplantation and genetic engineering.

Seven research projects will be undertaken, most of which will focus on making islet cell transplants viable for young patients. Islet cells are located in the pancreas and produce insulin. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system malfunctions, producing an autoimmune response that destroys islet cells. The goals of the JDF Center are to develop new gene therapy techniques that will increase the supply of islet cells available for transplantation and to protect transplanted islet cells from immune system attack.

"Islet cell transplantation is one of our most promising hopes of finding a cure," said Dr. Sandra Pucznynski, chair of research for the JDF. "The new JDF Center is an important building block in helping us put islet transplantation on a fast track." Dr. Puczynski is an assistant professor of medicine and director of research and evaluation at the Medical College of Ohio. She co-founded the Pittsburgh (now Western Pennsylvania) Chapter of JDF in 1987 and was its president from 1988-90. One of her daughters has Type 1 diabetes.

Massimo Trucco, MD, chief of the division of immunogenetics and the Hillman Professor of Immunology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is the director of the new JDF Center. "Transplanting healthy islet cells into Type 1 diabetes patients poses many challenges," he said. "The research of my colleagues and myself will

Contact: Mike Laffin
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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