Atkinson receives national diabetes award
University of Florida diabetes researcher Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., has been given the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's highest honor, the David Rumbough Award.
The annual award, established in 1974 by actress Dina Merrill in honor of her late son, David, acknowledges outstanding achievement and commitment to diabetes research and service to the foundation.
Atkinson is the Sebastian Family/American Diabetes Association professor for diabetes research at the College of Medicine and directs the Center for Immunology and Transplantation and the JDRF Gene Therapy Center for the Prevention of Diabetes and Its Complications at UF and the University of Miami.
He is an internationally recognized authority on type 1 diabetes, with particular interests in disease prediction and prevention, the role of environment in initiation of the disease, stem cells and pancreatic regeneration, and the use of gene therapy as a means to cure the disease and prevent its complications.
Atkinson was among the first to show that administering insulin to mice genetically destined to develop diabetes could thwart the errant immune system's battle to destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. His published findings helped pave the way for the massive National Institutes of Health Diabetes Prevention Trial, which tested the approach in people.
He also was one of the earliest investigators of glutamic acid decarboxylase, or GAD, an enzyme generated by the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas. Patients with type 1 diabetes often develop autoantibodies to GAD as the immune system turns against the body's islet cells. Atkinson then helped develop a standardized way to use the presence of these GAD autoantibodies to predict diabetes.