A Canadian doctor has been awarded for his decades-long research on gut hormones that have advanced the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and intestinal disorders.
Dr. Daniel Drucker, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and senior scientist at Sinai Health’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, and two other colleagues on Wednesday were named laureates of the 2021 Canada Gairdner International Award.
Dr. Drucker and his colleagues Joel Habener of Harvard Medical School and Jens Holst of the University of Copenhagen discovered hormones called glucagon-like peptides (GLP-1 and -2) that control the levels of insulin and glucagon, which work together to maintain healthy sugar levels in our blood.
Their research has led to the development of multiple types of treatments, specifically for the more common Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 per cent of total diabetes cases – and is becoming increasingly common in children – in Canada.
Currently, one in three Canadians is living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to Diabetes Canada. And cases are rising with an increased intake of high-calorie, processed foods, Dr. Drucker said.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin, which is a hormone that controls blood sugar levels.
If left uncontrolled, diabetes results in consistently high levels of blood sugar, which can lead to serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, vision loss, kidney failure, nerve damage and amputation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is also among the top 10 causes of death globally.
Dr. Drucker said that although the cure of diabetes seems “very unlikely”, the disease can be controlled with diet, weight loss and medication. School also plays a role in stressing the importance of physical education to curb the rise of diabetes, Dr. said.
The Canada Gairdner International Prize is nicknamed the Little Nobel Prize, with one out of every four Gairdner winners going on to win prestigious Nobel prizes.
Each year, seven awards are awarded by the Gairdner Foundation and the winners receive $100,000 in prize money.
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