Edmonton, AB December 8, 2003 The first Canadian Centre of Health Research Excellence Award has been given to the Alberta Diabetes Research Institute at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. The award, awarded by the federal government, recognizes a Canadian institution for its contributions to advancing scientific research and health knowledge and for its achievements in communicating this knowledge to the public.
The Alberta Diabetes Research Institute received the award based on the outstanding achievements of its diabetes research team and the international recognition the team has received for its work on islet cell transplants.
“I am pleased to honour the Alberta Diabetes Research Institute for their contributions to enhancing the research and health knowledge in relation to diabetes. Their work will affect the lives of people suffering from diabetes around the world and will be recognized for generations,” says Anne McLellan, minister of health.
The diabetes research team’s Edmonton Protocol has gained international recognition and represents 30 years of research into how to successfully transplant the cells that produce insulin from a healthy pancreas into the body of a person with diabetes. Until its introduction, islet cell transplants had a success rate of only 8%, in part because the steroids used would frequently destroy the transplanted cells and would cause increases in blood sugar levels. Over 80% of patients participating in the University of Alberta trials have remained insulin-free for sustained periods of time.
The protocol established a new set of procedures for islet cell transplants and introduced a new combination of drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted cells. It has received widespread international acclaim, with more than 200 patients around the world receiving transplants using the protocol.
“Canada has a history of achievement in diabetes research, ever since Banting and Best discovered insulin in 1921,”says Dr Alan Bernstein, president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). “Now, through the work at the University of Alberta and continued international collaboration, the Edmonton Protocol has the potential to evolve into the first-ever cure for type 1 diabetes.”
The diabetes research team is continuing its work in the area of islet cell transplants and is examining ways to increase the supply of islet cells for transplant. It is also expanding its research program to incorporate studies on the impact of nutrition and exercise on patients with type 2 diabetes.
The criteria for the Canadian Centre of Health Research Excellence Award were developed jointly by Health Canada and CIHR. There is no funding associated with this award.