Coventry aiming to tackle lifestyle diseases through Stellenbosch partnership

The Enterprise & Innovation team at Coventry University are running an Inter-KT programme which provides funding for academic staff attempting to establish a correlation between chronic inflammation – and the onset of type2 diabetes – following pre-established research carried out at the University of Stellenbosch. The project will allow researchers to go on secondments at international universities, helping to enhance the international profile of the University’s research centres and the development of industry links overseas.

SUN_logoThe collaborative research project will feature academics from the Centre for Applied Biological and Exercise Science at Coventry University, and the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University, as well as student support from both institutions.

University of StellenboschFollowing initial research carried out at Stellenbosch University the project will focus on a valuable data set of information and blood samples – key to the project – taken from a study involving a group of South African farm workers from the Western Cape.

The data set – recorded by Dr Theo Nell, Dr Maritza Kruger and three MSc students from Stellenbosch University – features epidemiological data recorded during the 2015 study, as part of a project funded by the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).

Dr Nell says scientists are already finding correlations between lifestyle diseases – such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure – and the onset of certain types of lifestyle cancers. The aim of the original study was to provide a snapshot view of what had occurred on the ground in the Western Cape, Prof Derek Renshaw’s work will look to further this insight.

If found – a link between the natural anti-inflammatory system and the onset of type 2 diabetes – could mean specific therapeutics could be designed to prevent the onset of such debilitating diseases. Prof Renshaw explains;

Annexin A1 is a natural anti-inflammatory protein found in humans. It is known to be altered in human diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus, and recently we demonstrated that Annexin A1 is also altered in obesity. Individuals with high body fat have half the amount of Annexin A1 found in normal weight humans. Given that obesity is characterised by a mild, low grade chronic inflammatory disease, we believe that this reduction in plasma Annexin A1 may exacerbate the inflammatory condition in these individuals and that this altered balance of inflammatory states may predispose those individuals to type 2 diabetes.

Prof Renshaw’s study will enable then to determine whether there is a link between plasma Annexin A1 and insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes.

Prof Renshaw recently visited Stellenbosch University to formalise the partnership, and later this year, Dr Nell and members of his research team will travel to the UK to work with Prof Renshaw at the Coventry University campus.

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