The University of Winnipeg



Understanding Gestational diabetes

Dr. Danielle Defries, © UWinnipeg

Dr. Danielle Defries, © UWinnipeg

UWinnipeg’s Dr. Danielle Defries (kinesiology and applied health) has received $32,000 from the Manitoba Medical Research Service foundation for her research in Gestational diabetes (GDM).

Defries is researching GDM, a form of diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy that causes a woman’s blood sugar to rise above normal levels. GDM has an impact on the future health of both mother and child, as it increases a woman’s risk of type 2 diabetes, and also increases the chances that her child will develop obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life. 

“I’ve always been interested in understanding the root causes of metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, especially since I have a lot of family members living with type 2 diabetes,” shared Defries. “Even though there are many drugs available to manage type 2 diabetes, cases continue to rise, and we see patients developing type 2 diabetes at younger and younger ages. That to me says there is more work to be done to understand the whys and hows of diabetes.”

Although there are many causes of GDM, some evidence from previous research suggests that improper functioning of hormones released by the intestine, called “incretins,” may be involved. Incretins communicate with the pancreas and trigger it to release insulin, the hormone that keeps blood glucose levels from going too high. 

“We think that GDM may negatively affect this communication between incretin hormones and the pancreas,” explains Defries. “If our results show there is a problem with any of these aspects of the incretin system, it will identify areas that could potentially be targeted through drug or nutrition treatments, hopefully preventing future health problems for women with GDM and their children, as well as reducing costs to the Canadian health care system.”

Defries and her colleague Dr. Shailly Varma Shrivastav (biology), who also received funding for her research from the Manitoba Medical Research Service foundation, will be honoured at a reception today with all the other 2016-2017 award recipients. 

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