Diabetes Complications Research Centre

Centre Overview

The UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre (DCRC) investigates the microvascular complications of diabetes. Our work focuses on identifying novel drivers of disease progression, regression and genetic susceptibility with a view to identifying and developing innovative therapeutic paradigms and biomarkers. The DCRC comprises a multidisciplinary research group with expertise in molecular cell biology, genetics, bioinformatics, pharmacology, systems biology, chemical pathology and clinical medicine.

Investigators at the UCD Conway Institute and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital work closely with international collaborators in academia and industry. Research programmes are funded by national and international sources including Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the European Union, Wellcome Trust, the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), European Renal Association (ERA) and bio pharma industry.

More Information About UCD Diabetes Complications Research Centre

Over the past decade we have applied differential gene expression technologies to identify novel genes expressed in in vitro and in vivo models of diabetic nephropathy [DN] and, importantly, in human renal tissue. Current efforts focus on mining these datasets and probing the regulation of expression and actions of specific molecules. We have identified novel roles for molecules such as the BMP antagonist Gremlin, induced by high glucose-1, IHG-1, a protein that amplifies fibrotic responses in the context of DN and Connective Tissue Growth Factor, a growth factor which drives scarring in the kidney and other organs.

As part of an international consortium with investigators at Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) we have used genome wide association studies to identify genetic polymorphisms linked to DN, which will help understand the genetic susceptibility to this devastating condition. We have explored the potential of the anti-inflammatory eicosanoid lipoxin to promote resolution and inhibit pathologic responses in models of disease. Thus, we have identified factors that may influence progression of DN and are potential targets for novel therapies including IHG-1, CTGF and Gremlin which exacerbate renal injury and protective lipid mediators such as lipoxins which are protective. These agents target distinct cell types and processes and may also implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy.

We have further characterised these and related modulators in order to define the molecular mechanisms underlying DN. Our access to human samples including blood, urine and renal biopsy materials facilitates our efforts to identify those targets most relevant to human disease. In 2012 noteworthy achievements for DCRC investigators included Prof le Roux’s highly prestigious President of Ireland Young Researcher Award, NIH funding for the Diabetes Complications Consortium, EU Marie Curie Outgoing fellowship award to Dr Emma Borgeson to UC San Diego. Investigators were invited to make presentations at several important international conferences including the Keystone Conference on Diabetic Complications (USA), the International Society for Nephrology Conference on Systems Biology of the Kidney (USA), and the International Society for Nephrology Conference on Tubulointerstial Fibrosis (Australia).

Research Team

Prof Catherine Godson
Professor of Molecular Medicine/Centre Director

Dr John Crean
Lecturer in Pharmacology

Prof Carel Le Roux
Head of Pathology/Professor of Experimental Pathology

Prof Finian Martin
Emeritus Associate Professor of Pharmacology

Dr Yvonne O’Meara
Senior Lecturer/Consultant Nephrologist

Dr Denise Sadlier
Senior Lecturer/Consultant Nephrologist

Mr Andrew Gaffney
Senior Technician/Lab Manager

Dr Debra Higgins
Research Fellow

Dr Madeline Murphy
Research Fellow

 

Researchers Supported

Dr Madeline Murphy Dr Fionnuala Hickey
Dr Eoin Brennan Dr Aisling Kennedy
Dr Caitriona McEvoy Dr Eileen Nolan
Dr Karl Neff Dr Aidan Ryan
Mr James Corcoran Mr Noel Faherty
Ms Karen Nolan Mr Satnam Surae
Ms Sabrina Jackson Ms Hayley Beaton
Ms Darrell Andrews Mr Oisin Gough
Ms Emma Borgeson  

Health Context

Diabetes in Focus

We are witnessing a global epidemic of diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that by 2016 the number of people with diabetes will double from current numbers to 240 million worldwide. Currently the direct cost of healthcare provision to people with diabetes is estimated at over $286 billion and the cost in terms of human suffering is enormous.

In the Republic of Ireland alone it is estimated that up to 14% of the population over 40 years of age has diabetes and that 10% of our healthcare budget is spent treating diabetes and its complications. Every year over 2,000 people in Ireland die from diabetes-related diseases.

Diabetes Mellitus & Related Diseases

Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus) is currently an incurable disease in which the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar (glucose) goes awry. Normally blood glucose levels are carefully regulated by production of the hormone insulin from the pancreas. In Type 1 diabetes destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas results in the impaired ability of the body to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is typically treated with injectable replacement insulin in an effort to regulate blood sugar. In Type 2 diabetes the body’s ability to respond to the insulin produced by the pancreas is severely impaired so that blood glucose levels are not appropriately regulated. Treatment of Type 2 diabetes is complex and depends on oral glucose-lowering agents. Whereas Type 2 diabetes was previously associated with aging there is now an alarming increase in the number of younger patients reflecting increases in childhood obesity.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes result in serious complications which reflect the consequences of dysregulated blood glucose over time. These complications include eye disease (diabetic retinopathy) which results in blindness, kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy) which leads to kidney failure, nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) which accounts for between 50-75% of non-trauma amputations, heart disease and strokes.

All types of people are at risk from diabetes. However, there are several risk factors associated with the condition including: a family history of diabetes; obesity; older age; limited physical exercise; women who had the condition during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Additionally, ethnicity and gender play a role in susceptibility to diabetes and to its complications.

Director Biography

Professor Catherine Godson obtained her BSc (Biochemistry) and PhD (Pharmacology) from UCD and, following postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Geneva and at University of California San Diego, joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1994. She returned to UCD in 1997 where she was appointed Professor of Molecular Medicine. Professor Godson served between 2004–2007 as the University’s Vice President, Innovation and Corporate Partnerships.

In 2007, she was appointed Director of UCD Diabetes Research Centre, where she leads a major research programme funded by Science Foundation Ireland and collaborators in biopharmaceutical industry. Professor Godson has an international reputation in research on inflammation and its resolution, microvascular complications of diabetes and extracellular signal transduction. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 research papers, review articles, patents and book chapters. Professor Godson’s research activities are supported by grants from Science Foundation Ireland, Wellcome TrustHealth Research Board and the European Union.

Professor Godson was appointed to the Health Research Board in 2007, is a member of the European Medical Research Council and also serves on several international grant review committees, including the Wellcome Trust Physiological Sciences Committee. In 2011, she was elected as a member of the Royal Irish Academy, one of the highest academic honours available to Irish scientists.