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Georgia Regents Scientist Lands $10M for Study of Diabetes Genes, Environmental Factors

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Investigators at the Georgia Regents University have netted a $10 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to continue pursuing a long-term, international effort to study the genetic and environmental contributors to type 1 diabetes, the university said today.

The NIDDK grant to Jin-Xiong She, director of the Medical College of Georgia's Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, will support the next phases of The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young study.

Conducted with partners at six centers in four countries, TEDDY is following nearly 9,000 at-risk children from birth to age 15 with the goal of identifying genetic mutations and environmental factors that may trigger or serve as protection against the onset of T1D.

The TEDDY partners are studying genes, gene expression, proteins, and metabolites with the hope of correlating these markers and environmental factors to disease progression and protection from the disease as well as differences in gene expression between children who show autoimmunity and those who do and do not have T1D.

"We are watching it unfold at all levels. We are finding the real players. This is going to allow us to better predict which children will develop type 1 diabetes and, ultimately, what we can do to prevent or better manage this disease," She said in a statement.

The study, which launched in 2003, has enrolled 8,677 children who were identified as having increased risk for T1D based on HLA-DR genotyping screening of a total of nearly 424,800 newborns.

Nearly 500 of these participants, most of whom are now around age 5, have persistent evidence of antibodies to their own insulin-producing islet cells, which suggests that their immune system is attacking their cells, and more than 100 participants already have T1D. Both of those groups are expected to double in size in the coming years.

The new grant will enable the partners to continue studying these high-risk children for another five-year period. The TEDDY partners will use the funds to collect biological samples and epidemiological data, conduct lab tests at intervals using a nested case-control study design, and to analyze and publish lab and epidemiological data in collaboration with the TEDDY Data Coordinating Center.

International partners contributing to the TEDDY study include collaborators in Finland, Sweden, and Germany, and in the US the project includes partners in Colorado, Florida, and Washington.

She expects that the study will turn up dozens of genes, possibly as many as 100, that have some impact on disease progression, and that it may show that some genes that are of interest today are not involved in the disease progression.

Jinfiniti Biosciences, a company headed by She that is based in GRU's Life Sciences Business Development Center, will serve as the genomics lab for the study.

The NIDDK is providing $5.3 million to fund the study in Fiscal Year 2013.