Profiles of BBDC Members Primarily Involved In Diabetes Research

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Kilkenny, Dawn M. - PhD

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Associate Director - Undergraduate (IBBME)
Lecturer (IBBME)
Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME); and Department of Medicine

Other Appointment(s):  

Contact Information:

164 College Street
407 Rosebrugh
Toronto, ON M5S 3G9

Phone: 416-978-8835
Fax: 416-978-4317

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My research interest is focused on Fibroblast Growth Factor receptor (FGFR) expression and signaling in adult beta cells. We have identified control of FGFR1-expression and -signaling by modifications in the beta-cell extracellular microenvironment. We are now investigating the role of the novel kinase-deficient FGFR5 isoform in the regulation of beta-cell FGFR1-signalling. Using insulin-secreting cell lines, we have expression of FGFR5 at both the cell membrane as well as in association with insulin secretory granules. Expression of FGFR5 enhances classical intracellular FGF-mediated signaling pathways, cellular matrix adhesion as well as insulin content. Expression of a 'dominant-negative' (kinase-deficient) isoform of classical FGFR1 (similar in structure to FGFR5) has been shown to induce a diabetic phenotype in mice. Taken together, these data promote our interest in defining the role that FGFRs play in normal beta-cell maintenance and insulin secretion. We currently examine this receptor signaling system using methods of fluorescence microscopy (live-cell and fixed) both in vitro as well as in vivo (whole islet), and verify our results in combination with traditional biochemical techniques.

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Klip, Amira

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Professor, Department of Paediatrics; Department of Biochemistry; and Department of Physiology

Other Appointment(s): Senior Scientist, The Hospital For Sick Children

Contact Information:

The Hospital for Sick Children
McMaster Building, Room 5004
555 University Ave.
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8

Phone: 416-813-6392
Fax: 416-813-5028

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

We study how insulin stimulates glucose entry into muscle and how this fails in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We explore insulin signals, movement of vesicles containing glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) and strategies to render muscle cells insulin-resistant. We generated platforms of muscle cells in culture expressing tagged GLUT4 and a number of insulin signals, as well as transgenic mice expressing tagged GLUT4 in muscle, to test GLUT4 movement in vivo. With these systems we found that signals downstream of PI3-kinase bifurcate into activation of Akt and of the small G protein Rac. Downstream of Akt lies AS160 that regulates the small G proteins Rab8A and Rab13 to control GLUT4 vesicle arrival near the membrane. GLUT4 vesicles arriving at the plasma membrane (in the TIRF-imaging zone) then tether to actin filaments through the molecular motor Myosin 1c. In turn, Rac controls actin filament remodelling, crucial for GLUT4 vesicle translocation to the membrane, and our collaborator Erik Richter (Copenhagen) found that mice lacking Rac in muscle become insulin-resistant. Moreover, overexpressing Rac in cells overcame insulin resistance.


Recently we discovered that the saturated fatty acid palmitate renders macrophages inflammatory, to produce cytokines that make muscle cells insulin-resistant. Moreover, direct activation of the NOD innate immunity recognition receptors, in cells or in vivo, caused insulin resistance. Finally, we documented a particular infiltration of inflammatory macrophages in the muscles of high fat-fed mice and of obese, insulin-resistant humans. These collective findings contribute to our understanding of the link between inflammation and insulin resistance.


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Kohly, Radha P. - MD, PhD, FRCSC

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences

Other Appointment(s): Eye Physician and Surgeon and Medical Retina Specialist, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Contact Information:
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Ave., Room M1202b
Toronto, ON   M4N 3M5

Phone: (416) 480-5607
Fax: (416) 480-5675

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My current research interest is in retinal vascular diseases including diabetic macular edema. We have demonstrated the importance of serum biomarkers in the role of diabetic retinopathy. Currently, we are measuring cytokines drawn from the aqueous humor in patients with diabetic macular edema to determine if they can predict responses to treatment with intravitreal lucentis injections. The goal of this research is to ultimately use aqueous humor cytokines to guide treatment decisions with various intravitreal medications including anti-VEGF agents, and steroids, in the management of diabetic macular edema.

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Kramer, Caroline - MD, PhD

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism

Other Appointment(s): Clinician-Scientist, Mount Sinai Hospital

Contact Information:
Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes
60 Murray Street, Suite L5-029
Toronto, ON   M5T 3L9

Phone: 416-586-4800

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

My clinical research focuses on (i) the impact of obesity on metabolic dysfunction, (ii) the pathophysiology and risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), (iii) risk factors for cardiovascular disease in individuals with metabolic abnormalities, and (iv) strategies for the treatment of T2DM. I am particularly interested in understanding the pathophysiology of T2DM in individuals with various degrees of obesity and differential patterns of body fat distribution.

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L'Abbe, Mary - PhD

University of Toronto Appointment(s): Earle W. McHenry Professor, and Chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences

Contact Information:
FitzGerald Building, Rm. 315
150 College St.
Toronto, ON   M5S 3E2

Phone: 416-978-7235
Fax: 416-971-2366

Diabetes Related Research Activities:

Mary L’Abbé is an expert in public health nutrition, nutrition policy, and food and nutrition regulations. Her research program on Food and Nutrition Policy for Population Health examines the nutritional quality of the food supply, food intake patterns at the national population level, and consumer research on food choices in association with risk of obesity and other chronic diseases, including diabetes.  For example, some of her CIHR and other funded research activities include:

  • Assessing levels and types of sugars, including added sugars in the Canadian food supply
  • Diabetes education intervention and research investigating supports and barriers to diabetes care among multiethnic communities in Toronto (in collaboration with the Diabetes Education Centers at the North York General hospital and Mackenzie Health)
  • Investigating national population-level dietary patterns associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Examination of the application of different nutrient profiling methods to define “healthy foods” and their application in polices to support diet related NCD reduction
  • Building tools to support improved consumer choice of healthier foods or to support nutrition interventions in primary care/disease prevention, e.g. Big Life Salt Calculator has been developed ( – A sugar app is under development and will be launched in 2015
  • Consumer attitudes and understanding and use of nutrition labelling and claims on food packages, front-of-pack labelling, and effects of different criteria in their development and application (note that L’Abbe’s consumer surveys include questions about health/disease status in order to link food choice/attitudes to particular diseases including diabetes)

Note, we have focussed considerable efforts towards sodium and hypertension/CVD reduction in the last few years; we have just recently received funding to extend many of our methods towards calories, sugar and other dietary factors and diabetes reduction.

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