A five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will help researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago answer basic questions about the role of arsenic in the development of diabetes and examine the mechanisms by which selenoproteins – found in the human body in 25 different forms – counter the effects of arsenic.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterized by either a lack of adequate insulin or insulin resistance, which can cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels, as well as long-term complications such as blindness, kidney failure, amputations and cardiovascular disease. It is projected that diabetes will affect more than 693 million people globally by 2045.
Recent evidence has implicated environmental pollutants, including arsenic, in the development of diabetes, but little is known about how arsenic exerts this effect.
Arsenic currently contaminates drinking water sources used by more than 100 million people globally. More groundwater sources are expected to be affected by arsenic due to fracking, which produces arsenic-tainted wastewater that can seep into underground aquifers, explained Dr. Robert Sargis, assistant professor in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism in the UIC College of Medicine and principal investigator on the grant.
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