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May 21, 2004

JDRF Awards Two Grants to University of Louisiana at Monroe Research Director

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) has awarded two significant research grants to Dr. Karen Briski, Ph.D., of the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The grants, totaling $423,000, will support Briski's research into the brain's role in the onset of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in insulin-dependent diabetics, as well as the use of pharmacological tools that aspire to aid the brain in preventing hypoglycemia. Briski serves the university as Professor of Pharmacology and Director of Research and Graduate Studies for the School of Pharmacy.

"These grants are a significant accomplishment for Dr. Briski and ULM. The funding of these grants is highly competitive and emphasizes the quality of the researchers and the research performed in the School of Pharmacy. It also demonstrates the impact that the School of Pharmacy's unique research programs have on diseases that significantly effect the population of Louisiana," said Dr. Greg Leader, associate dean and Director of ULM's School of Pharmacy.

"Dr. Briski is embarking on an exciting journey, and we are delighted to be on board with her," said Peter Van Etten, President and CEO of JDRF. "We recognize the importance of understanding the brain's function in blood sugar regulation, and we eagerly anticipate Dr. Briski's research findings so that we can apply that information to our efforts to find a cure."

The onset of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) elicits physical warning signs such as sweaty palms, flushed face, nervousness, weakness, headache, blurred vision and increased appetite. Once these signs manifest, the body normally responds with an output of hormones that restore blood sugar to the normal range. If the body does not respond appropriately and the condition is left untreated, people experiencing hypoglycemia will experience physical reactions ranging from mental confusion to coma and death.

The threat of reoccurring hypoglycemia is exaggerated for people with diabetes because their bodies can't naturally produce the insulin that balances glucose levels. Although they inject insulin to help control glucose levels, recurrent insulin-induced hypoglycemia (RIIH) is an unavoidable hurdle for diabetes patients who use conventional insulin therapy. Unfortunately, recent findings show that over time, these reoccurring bouts of hypoglycemia further weaken their ability to manage glucose availability to the point of collapse, thus making the low blood sugar episodes even more traumatic.

Briski's research will look at what happens in the brain during hypoglycemia, identifying where the impact is the greatest and what hormonal treatments may help restore the body's ability to regulate blood sugar. Moreover, Briski's research will use pharmacological tools to determine if hormones act within the brain to inhibit activity within the neural circuity, thus controlling glucagons and epinephrine release during hypoglycemia. Briski's research will specifically study areas of the brain that contain neurons which function to monitor and signal cellular glucose deficits, and it is expected that her work will provide critical new insight on neural and endocrine interaction in the regulation of glucose balance.

"I am sincerely grateful to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for their generous support of these research initiatives," Briski said. "I look forward to this exciting opportunity to apply my expertise in reproductive endocrinology to elucidate where and how gonadal and adrenal hormones influence the brain's ability to detect glucose deficiencies during repetitive metabolic challenges."

JDRF was founded in 1970 by the parents of children with juvenile diabetes ­ a disease that strikes children suddenly, makes them insulin dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications. Since inception, JDRF has provided more than $680 million to diabetes research worldwide. More than 80 percent of JDRF expenditures directly support research and education about research. JDRF's mission is constant: to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.

Briski has been successful in securing grants for several projects since she has been at ULM. From 2001 to present she has garnered over $1,100,000 in funding. Some sources include the American Diabetes Assoc., National Institutes of Health, LEQSF, and JDFR.

For more information about type 1 diabetes and research efforts for the cure, please visit

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