Diabetes is a devastating disease that affects more than 2 million Canadians and over 200 million people worldwide. Diabetes costs Canada an estimated $9 billion annually and the incidence of diabetes is increasing dramatically. Because of its chronic nature, the financial burden of diabetes approaches that of all cancers combined. Diabetes research continues to be under-funded.
There are several forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, occurs when the body’s own immune system destroys the insulin secreting pancreatic beta-cells. Type 1 diabetes is the most severe form of the disease and requires multiple daily insulin injections for survival. Even with excellent glucose control, patients are at significant risk for developing debilitating complications. Type 2 diabetes, formally known as adult-onset diabetes, occurs when there are insufficient insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells for the body’s needs. Type 2 diabetes is commonly associated with obesity. There are other forms of diabetes caused by rare mutations in important genes. In all forms of diabetes, the exact causes remain unclear.
Diabetes is clearly one of the most important medical problems of our time. We in the UBC Diabetes Research Group are trying to understand the causes of this disease well enough to design rational therapies to defeat it.