Dr. Ji-Won Yoon
It 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.
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, Yoons 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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