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Dr. Ji-Won Yoon

Dr. Ji-Won YoonIt has been said that diabetes is the third leading cause of disease related death in North America, and Dr. Ji-Won Yoon, a University of Calgary professor, has focused his career to advance research for a cure.

U of C A leader in diabetes research worldwide, Yoon earned his MSc in genetics and cell biology, and PhD in Virology and Immunology from the University of Connecticut in 1971 and 1973, respectively. In 1984, Yoon moved to Alberta to accept a research and teaching position in the Division of Virology at the University of Calgary Medical School. In 1990, he became the Director and Chair of the Julia McFarland Diabetes Research Centre, also located at the University of Calgary. He led the centre for 10 years.

Although the onset of diabetes is often genetically determined, Yoon has discovered evidence that links the development of Type 1 diabetes (the strain of the disease which occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin) to a number of different viruses. As diabetics are at a high risk for developing kidney disease, heart disease or blindness, as well as a host of other complications, Yoon’s research has focused predominantly on treatments of the illness, most recently, through gene therapy.

In 2000, Yoon and his team of scientists were able to release significant test results. By injecting lab mice and rats with human insulin genes, the diabetes seemed to be reversed. While this is not a cure for the disease and further studies must be conducted before testing can be done on humans, the advance in research is unmistakable.

Yoon is currently funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association and holds the Canada Research Chair for Diabetes. Both will allow him and his team of scientists to develop insulin gene therapy further, enabling future trials on humans.

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