Mt Claremont resident Markus Schlaich helping to fight diabetes

Profesor Markus Schlaich.
Profesor Markus Schlaich.

UWA researchers, including Mt Claremont resident Markus Schlaich, are playing a vital role in investigating the role the sympathetic nervous system could play in combating diabetes.

Diabetes Research WA has been awarded new funding to find out how to use the body’s sympathetic nervous system to help reduce rates of diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Executive director Sherl Westlund said the group was “excited” to channel $80,000 into research by University of WA School of Medicine and Pharmacology A. Professor Vance Matthews and Professor Schlaich from UWA.

Professor Schlaich is also Head of the Dobney Hypertension Centre at the Royal Perth Hospital Campus and the Neurovascular Hypertension & Kidney Disease Lab at Melbourne’s Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.

Ms Westlund said Western Australia is home to some “incredible minds… racing to uncover new ways to be able to prevent the avalanche of type 2 diabetes cases predicted to be diagnosed in the coming years”.

“We are honoured to be able to be part of funding that progress,” she said.

Professor Schlaich, a renal physician and hypertension specialist, said investing in research was critical to address the “rapidly” increasing “burden” of diabetes.

“The numbers are staggering; more than 1.2 million people are living with diabetes in Australia, with the majority of these cases being type 2 diabetes, and it’s believed another two million Australians could have prediabetes putting them at high risk of developing type 2,” he said.

“It’s a chronic condition that can lead to kidney, heart and eye disease amongst other health complications so doing all we can to find out how to prevent it has to be a local and national priority.”

A. Professor Matthews said the research had the potential to provide “a fresh approach to treating obesity and type 2 diabetes through improving blood sugar levels”.

“We’ve generated exciting data which highlights for the first time that the sympathetic nervous system plays a role in regulating the major glucose reabsorption protein, sodium glucose co-transporter 2 or SGLT2 which is believed to be expressed exclusively in the kidney,” he said.

“The focus of this grant is to find out if we can develop ways to tap into the sympathetic nervous system and alter the expression of this protein because if we can do that, it opens up new avenues for treating obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

Diabetes Research WA, based at Royal Perth Hospital, was established in 1976 to stimulate research into diabetes in Western Australia and has distributed more than $5 million dollars for this work.