To help fund his research for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, University of Central Florida professor Dr. Henry Daniell received a $500,000 grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the university announced.
The award of the three-year grant marks the first time the foundation has funded a UCF scientist. Daniell's team landed two other grants in September totaling $5.5 million from the National Institutes of Health. Those grants are to fund research for a better treatment for hemophilia.
Daniell's team has genetically modified lettuce and engineered it so that it produces capsules of insulin, which could potentially work on the damaged pancreas cells of Type 1 diabetics and restore their ability to produce insulin.
"Dr. Daniell's research is quite promising, and we're thrilled to be able to fund a local scientist working on such important work to our community," said Martin Bernstine, executive director of the foundation's Central Florida chapter.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has been investing in Type 1 research for four decades. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that shows up in children and young adults when their bodies stop making insulin. The patients must inject themselves with insulin to survive.
Many Central Florida scientists are working on a cure for diabetes. However, most focus on type 2 diabetes, which is far more common. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood when the body no longer produces enough insulin, or the body's cells ignore the insulin.
In 2006, Daniell's research team genetically engineered lettuce plants with the insulin gene. They then gave freeze-dried plant cells to five-week-old diabetic mice for eight weeks. By the following year, the mice's cells were producing normal levels of insulin. Daniell has continued that research.