From left: Mr Pragalathan Naidoo, Dr Shahidul
lslam and Ms Rachel Wilson.

Cutting-edge research on diabetes will be presented by a lecturer and two of his students at the World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne, Australia, this December.

Dr Shahidul lslam, a Senior Lecturer of Biochemistry at UKZN’s Westville campus, and Masters student Mr Pragalathan Naidoo together with MBChB second-year and former MSc Biochemistry student Ms Rachel Wilson, will showcase significant diabetes research they have conducted on rat models in their Biomedical Research Laboratory at UKZN.

lslam has, over the years, investigated potential anti-diabetic effects of xylitol in a type-2 diabetes (T2D) model of rats. Xylitol is a white crystalline five carbon sugar alcohol which is widely used as a sugar substitute in various food products because of its similar sweetness but relatively lower calorific value compared to sucrose.

‘The chronic or over consumption of refined sugar may cause severe physiological and clinical problems such as overweight, obesity, diabetes and many other diseases related to metabolic syndrome, hence the popularity of non-sugar sweeteners is increasing gradually in all over the world,’ said lslam.

The data of his study suggests that xylitol could be a “promising additive” to diabetic foods, not only as a sugar substitute, but also as an anti-diabetic agent. Additionally, the significantly improved in vivo anti-oxidant status might be partly involved in the anti-diabetic effects of xylitol.

Naidoo was one of 100 globally-selected young researchers to receive a prestigious Travel Grant from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) to present their research results at the Congress. His study is titled: “Development of an Alternative Non-Obese, Non-Genetic Rat Model of T2D”.

The study aim was to develop an alternative non-obese non-genetic animal model for T2D that may optimally mimic the clinical pathogenesis seen in humans, namely: less insulin resistance, partial pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction and disorderly reduced insulin secretion.

Data from the study suggests that caffeine pretreatment at 20 mg/kg body weight followed by 65 mg/kg body weight streptozotocin can be administered to rats to develop a new and alternative non-obese non-genetic animal model for T2D.

Wilson also received the prestigious IDF Grant to present her research at the 21st World Diabetes Congress in Dubai, 2011 when she was working as an MSc student with Islam. Now driven by a goal to specialise in endocrinology after completing her current MBChB study at UKZN, Wilson has published a book chapter with Islam in addition to publishing her MSc research work in the international pharmacology journal, Pharmacological Reports.

This year’s congress will showcase her study which examined the anti-diabetic effects of a low (0.25 percent) and a high (0.5 percent) dose of white mulberry leaf tea in a newly developed rat model of T2D. Despite manufacturer and literature claims, results of this study suggest that either a low or high concentration of white mulberry leaf tea has no effects on ameliorating diabetes-related parameters in a newly developed rat model of T2D.

Wilson recently presented at a Momentum and Compcare Wellness Day which was held on various UKZN campuses. Her focus was on stress, nutrition and supplementation during exams.

She was supported by Islam and Naidoo in saying it was every individual’s responsibility to avoid a sedentary lifestyle by exercising for at least 30 minutes daily, coupled with healthy eating that limits a high intake of  saturated fats and simple carbohydrates. ‘These foods lead to obesity which often results in diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other non-communicable chronic diseases,’ added Islam.