Diabetes research at the U of A means a better future for patients

This World Diabetes Day, we’re highlighting cutting-edge research from the Alberta Diabetes Institute.

14 November 2022

The very first World Diabetes Day was in 1991, marking the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin along with Charles Best, John Macleod and James Collip (a University of Alberta alumnus) in 1922. Insulin has since saved millions of lives worldwide. 

The U of A has a long history of diabetes research, including Collip’s work, the development of the Edmonton Protocol (which helped patients with Type 1 diabetes become 100 per cent insulin independent) and the establishment of the Alberta Diabetes Institute.

Diabetes is a disease in which a person’s body either can't produce insulin or can't properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, has the role of regulating the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar must be carefully regulated to ensure the body functions properly. Too much blood sugar can cause damage to organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body also needs insulin to use sugar for energy.

Eleven million Canadians — about one in four — are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition that, if left unchecked, is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.

The Alberta Diabetes Institute (ADI), housed in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, is a catalyst for research and a hub of support for people with diabetes in Edmonton and across Alberta. 

The cross-faculty institute includes experts in cellular biology, medicine, surgery, immunology, physiology, pharmacology, physical activity, nutrition and public health. The infrastructure at the institute allows for diabetes research in these fields while promoting collaboration between disciplines.

“Our researchers are dedicated to preventing, treating and, ultimately, curing diabetes,” says Peter Senior, ADI director and Dr. Charles A. Allard Chair in Diabetes Research. “The work of the ADI is made possible by the contributions of many partners: funders, donors and sponsors enabling researchers to pursue answers to difficult questions and to help develop and train the next generation of diabetes researchers.”

Here are five ways U of A research is contributing to the present and future of diabetes care: