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Why is gestational diabetes linked to risk of type 2 in later life?

Project summary

Having gestational diabetes can increase the risk of getting type 2 diabetes in later life for both mother and baby. Dr Bowe wants to better understand why. He will study changes in the pancreas that happen during pregnancy in women with gestational diabetes to find out if, and how, this has a lasting impact which puts mum and baby at a greater risk of type 2. This could inform new treatments to help women and their children reduce their risk and make sure fewer people get type 2 diabetes in the future.

Background to research

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. It can cause complications during pregnancy and birth, as well as increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in later life for both mother and baby.

When you’re pregnant your body changes to allow you to move glucose (sugar) across the placenta and provide your baby with nutrients. As pregnancy progresses the mum’s body will become less responsive to insulin, known as insulin resistance, so that more glucose can be able available to the baby. 

Usually, to make up for increased insulin resistance the mum’s pancreas will start to make more insulin so that their blood sugar levels remain in a healthy range. But in gestational diabetes this doesn’t happen.

Research aims

Dr Bowe wants to work out if this problem during pregnancy has a lasting impact on the pancreas and blood sugar control in mother and baby, and how this in turn puts them at a greater risk of later developing type 2 diabetes.

He has developed a way to study the biological process that leads to gestational diabetes by looking at mice who have beta cells that can’t adapt to pregnancy and develop high blood sugar levels.

Dr Bowe’s team plan to identify how and why this happens by using a range of molecular biology techniques to pinpoint the mechanisms through which gestational diabetes alters the development and function of beta cells, and how this increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This project will let us know how important the biological changes that happen in gestational diabetes are in increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes in later life for mothers and babies.

This will give us important insights that could lead to new treatments to help women and children of mum's with gestastional diabetes reduce their risk, and ensure fewer people will get type 2 diabetes in the future. 

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