Working on Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
Understanding Type 2 Diabetes
Looking for a way to prevent the onset of disease
Diabetes costs Canada’s health care system and economy billions of dollars every year. In fact, type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing chronic illness in Canada. The situation is especially challenging in Manitoba where the rate of type 2 diabetes in childhood is 12 times higher than any other province. Solving the type 2 diabetes challenge is essential. Fortunately, we have Dr. Brandy Wicklow, one of Canada’s leading scientists, on our side. And fortunately, we have donors like you who make her work possible.
“My passion is the wellness of the children of our province and the ability to keep kids healthy and happy…”
Q: Explain the research you do here at The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba
A: My current research focuses on childhood and adolescent obesity and adverse health outcomes including type 2 diabetes. My post-doctoral clinical research fellowship focused on factors (diet, fitness, and fat content in organs) as predictors or risk factors of type 2 diabetes in youth. As a part of my research on risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes in children, I am studying women with type 2 diabetes during their pregnancy to see if factors in the pregnancy influence the risk of the development of diabetes in their children. We currently follow women who have graduated from our clinical type 2 diabetes program through pregnancy and childbirth to collect biochemical and genetic markers to identify high risks to the infant imparted during gestation. We also follow the infants to look at growth patterns, fat accumulation, pancreatic functioning (insulin secretion), and overall glucose (sugar) handling by the body.
In addition to the early-life influences on the development of type 2 diabetes in childhood, I am also looking at the long-term effects of type 2 diabetes on the health of these children. I am part of a team of investigators who are looking at different markers of cardiovascular, kidney, and eye health of children with type 2 diabetes to identify early markers of damage, and predictors of which children will be at higher risk for health complications from their diabetes.
Finally, I am looking at interventions to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes or its progression. To continue with my earlier work looking at how the accumulation of fat in certain organs (liver and pancreas) play a role in type 2 diabetes in children, I am running a clinical trial to see if the fat accumulation is reversible. I am investigating the ability of a natural health product (resveratrol) to reverse signs of fatty liver disease and prediabetes in overweight adolescents. To address the health issues of children already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I am looking at a trial to determine which medications or combinations of medications work best to return the blood sugars to normal and minimize the risks of long-term complications.
Q: What keeps you motivated to do this research?
A: I am a pediatrician at heart. My passion is the wellness of the children of our province and the ability to keep kids healthy and happy so they may lead a full and productive life. In that sense, it is very important to me that we are offering the best care possible to the children we see. My belief that we can do better in preventing, screening, and treating type 2 diabetes in children keeps me motivated to continue looking for better medication options, lifestyle therapies, and factors to identify children who are at risk of diabetes or diabetes-related complications. The earlier we are able to identify a child at risk, the more we can do as clinicians to prevent the progression of type 2 diabetes and/or its complications.
Q: With your credentials you could have worked anywhere. Why did you decide to come to The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba to do your research?
A: The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba is one of the only self-contained multi-specialty pediatric research institutes in Canada. It provides unparalleled support in infrastructure, including clinical research rooms and office space, support staff including nursing, administration, research project managers and associates, and statistical support through the clinical resource unit. The atmosphere here fosters collaboration among researchers and has given me the opportunity to share my ideas with laboratory-based scientists who can complement my research by looking at what happens at the cell level or in a mouse model. At the end of my travels, The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba was where I believed I was most likely to be successful in achieving my research goals.
Q: How have donor dollars made a difference in your work?
A: Without donations to the Children’s Hospital Foundation, my research would not be possible. Everything from the office space I work in and the computer I work on, to the clinical rooms where I see my research participants has been provided by donor dollars. I have also received support to financially cover some of the costs of my research studies to analyze blood samples and do MRI imaging of the liver. In addition, many of my patients and research participants are indigenous and live in remote and rural areas which require travel by the study team to northern reserves. The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba has helped greatly in providing services to help with the logistics of travel and/or transport of samples from up north. From a broader perspective, because of donor dollars The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba has been able to create a welcoming, supportive research environment which brings together many of Canada’s leaders and new promising investigators to foster collaboration and mentorship that have added tremendously to my own research program.
Q: A generation from now, what difference do you hope your research will make?
A: I hope that we as care providers and researchers have a better understanding of why certain children develop type 2 diabetes while others do not. If we can understand the cause of the problem, we will be better equipped to prevent type 2 diabetes in children. In particular, if we can identify the children at highest risk we can allocate resources to targeted therapy and programs for those children to keep them healthy without medication.
Modified in February 2017.
Thanks to donors like you, Dr. Brandy Wicklow and her team are making important progress in the battle against type 2 diabetes. To support research at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba through the Children’s Hospital Foundation, please click here.