Opportunities - Understanding variation in human insulin production

Understanding variation in human insulin production
Alberta Diabetes Institute IsletCore, University of Alberta

Insulin is secreted from cells of the pancreatic islets of Langerhans into the blood after a meal to control blood sugar levels. In type 1 diabetes, islet cells are destroyed by an autoimmune reaction. In type 2 diabetes, islet cells fail to produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs. Thus, understanding the factors that control insulin production by islet cells is an important step towards determining the cause of diabetes, the potential for diabetes reversal, and ultimately prevention of the disease.

Even in people without diabetes, insulin levels in the blood are extremely variable and are impacted by factors that include nutrition, genetics, and exposure to environmental chemicals. This variation can also be seen in insulin secreted by pancreatic islets isolated from the pancreas of organ donors. Led by the Alberta Diabetes Institute IsletCore (http://www.bcell.org/adi-isletcore.html), one of the world’s top pancreas tissue biobanks, our team of experts will characterize the variability in insulin secretion, islet cell functions, and molecular profiles in human pancreas organ donors with and without diabetes.  The result will be a comprehensive ‘encyclopedia’ and web-tool that links genetics and other donor characteristics with detailed cellular functions of insulin-producing islet cells.

Our team will also answer key questions about how genetic-risk for diabetes acts to impair insulin secretion; about personalized insulin responses to different nutrients; and about the links between environmental pollution and reductions in insulin secretion. We will also make this ‘encyclopedia’ available to researchers around the world, and to the public, supporting a better understanding of human insulin secretion and diabetes.

Roles and Responsibilities
We are seeking 1-2 patient partners who will work with our team on holding focus groups to obtain ongoing feedback and to identify patient-driven priorities for our study. Specific duties include:
-Collaborate in the design of the focus group question guide
-Act as a facilitator or co-facilitator for an annual virtual focus group of patient partners with lived experience of diabetes
-Perform qualitative analysis of focus group responses, summarizing themes and key points
-Additional opportunities to attend team meetings may be available if the patient partner in interested in being further involved

The ideal candidate will possess the following attributes:
-Graduate of the PaCER program or equivalent patient research partner training
-Experience facilitating focus groups
-Experience working together in a team environment
-Confident using online tools such as Zoom, email and Google suite
-Lived or family experience of diabetes, or a specific interest in diabetes research
-An interest in understanding and impacting laboratory and cell-based scientific research
-Excellent communication skills, a friendly and approachable personality, and the ability to make people from different backgrounds feel comfortable and have their voices valued and heard

Time Commitment
A focus group will be held on an annual basis, likely in December. The approximate time commitment is:
-Focus group guide creation: 2-4 hours
-Focus group facilitation: 1.5 hours
-Qualitative analysis: 2-4 hours

Successful candidates will be compensated as per the current Albertan4HealthResearch Patient Partner Appreciation guidelines.
This is an online activity so there are no direct costs (i.e., parking and travel) associated with collaboration.

For more information or to apply, please connect with
Jocelyn Manning Fox                                                    Patrick MacDonald
jm33@ualberta.ca                                                        pem@ualberta.ca
587 589 7149                                                                780 996 0206