Pennington Center research to cover juvenile diabetes

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Released: Thursday, May 12, 2005

BATON ROUGE - Scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC) are very familiar with Type 2 diabetes, because it is frequently triggered in adulthood by obesity and other nutritional related issues. Now, armed with a new research grant, a Center researcher is also taking aim at Type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes.

The grant, awarded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to Center researcher Irina Obrosova, Ph.D., will allow her to investigate nerve damage brought on by both types of diabetes and possibly to develop means of prevention and treatment.

Carl Marks, president of the local JDRF volunteer board, said he was extremely pleased with diabetic research strides at PBRC as well as the recent funding.

“Number one, we are able to further assist Pennington in their highly important research efforts,” Marks said, “and secondly, this is an economic boost in Baton Rouge, enabling us to tell donors, supporters and family members that we are able to bring in dollars generated by the local community to help address and, hopefully, cure this disease.”

Obrosova and postdoctoral fellow Viktor Drel, Ph.D., will be honing in on diabetic neuropathy – severe nerve damage that develops in at least 50-percent of patients with both type 1 and 2 diabetes and that often leads to foot amputation. They will use state-of-the-art techniques developed by Drel to explore molecular mechanisms of abnormal sensation and pain and, hopefully, will create new means to prevent foot ulcers and amputation. Obrosova said she is excited about the honor and opportunity to increase interactions among scientists, hoping these attempts will determine key components that could lead to a greater understanding this rather puzzling yet prevalent disease.

“I am happy to be at PBRC with its creative atmosphere, excellent facilities, and possibilities of collaboration with a number of renowned experts in diabetes and obesity research,” said Obrosova. “We have very good working relationships in the Diabetes Lab assembled by Dr. Cefalu in which all faculty, postdoctoral and other personnel work as a team. The members of the Diabetes Lab have been very successful in obtaining extramural grant support; in particular, I am happy that our project has been recently funded by the JDRF.”

William Cefalu, M.D., chief of the Center’s Division of Nutrition and Chronic Diseases agrees and looks forward to positive future implications of the JDRF grant.

“The importance of the grant is that it is investigating the specific mechanism by which uncontrolled blood sugars contribute to nerve problems so very common in diabetes,” said Cefalu. “Uncovering the mechanism will allow for the development of new and novel medications that will ultimately address the underlying problem.”

Citizens interested in more information about the local JDRF chapter, may contact Carl Marks at (225) 932-9511.


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.