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Dr. Mathieu Ferron, director, Molecular Physiology Research Unit, Montreal Clinical Research Unit; professor, Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal; adjunct professor, Division of Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University

Research highlights/discoveries:

• Studying a hormone produced within the bones that could have a strong impact in treating or even preventing type 2 diabetes


Dr. Mathieu Ferron at a glance:

• Received Diabetes Canada’s End Diabetes 100 Award, 2021–2024 (2021)

• Completed postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University, New York (2013)

• Named Canada Research Chair in Bone and Energy Metabolism (2013)

• Received PhD in Molecular Biology, Université de Montréal (2006)


How did you get interested in diabetes research?

My grandmother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes quite late in life, which means she was perhaps struggling with the disease for a long time without knowing it. I have always been interested in science and biochemistry, but the fact that I had someone in the family with diabetes made me want to study this disease in particular. Also, diabetes affects so many Canadians, and I think there is so much more that could be done to prevent and better treat those living with this disease. 


Tell us about your current research in diabetes.

We’ve known for a while that fat and muscle can affect blood sugar levels, but we also discovered in the early 2010s that our bones can produce substances that have an impact on our metabolism in regulating blood sugar. More precisely, during my postdoctoral studies, I was part of the team that discovered there is a hormone called osteocalcin that is produced by our bones, and when osteocalcin reaches the pancreas, it promotes the release of insulin to help regulate the body’s blood sugar levels. During studies on mouse cells with my team in my current lab in 2020, we determined that by improving the stability of osteocalcin, we could potentially improve its ability to promote the release of insulin. Now the next step is to see if this will be similar in human beta cells. In the next three years, we will conduct experiments on human beta cells, with the ultimate goal of doing studies in human subjects within the next five to 10 years.


How do you hope this research will impact Canadians who are either at risk of or living with type 2 diabetes?

By studying the way diabetes works and how this hormone can affect metabolism, we can create better ways to treat type 2 diabetes. Research takes time, of course, but I’m confident that discoveries like ours can play a part in finding better diabetes treatments in the future.

Given that our research team is composed mainly of graduate students, we are also contributing to the training of the next generation of diabetes researchers.



The last word

Researchers like Dr. Ferron and his team have taken up Banting and Best’s mantle and are making incredible strides toward ending diabetes in our lifetime,” says Laura Syron, president and CEO of Diabetes Canada. “As someone with type 2 diabetes, I know that studies like Dr. Ferron’s represent hope to the 11.7 million people in Canada who are living with diabetes or prediabetes—that is why we are proud to have provided more than $140 million in research grants, awards and partnerships to scientists across the country since 1975.”


Did you know?

Every 24 hours, another 480 Canadians are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. That’s why we need to act now. This November, which marks Diabetes Awareness Month across the globe, we can all take action to help End Diabetes. Help us fund research like that of Dr. Ferron, which has the power to change lives. Donate today. #LetsEndDiabetes

Author: Rosalind Stefanac

Category Tags: Research;

Region: National

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