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VU researcher funded for diabetes and exercise study

Diabetes Australia has awarded $60,000 to a Victoria University researcher exploring how exercise improves diabetes management.

Dr Mary Xinmei Zhang, a research fellow at VU’s Institute for Sport, Exercise Science and Active Living (ISEAL), received the award with 21 other researchers at Government House last week.

“It’s an honour they recognised my work that one day may help some of the 300,000 Victorians now living with diabetes,” she said.

Dr Zhang will investigate how nitric oxide – a gas that performs a number of important functions in the body – can be used to mimic the beneficial effects of exercise.

“Exercise is important for everyone, but many people with Type 2, or ‘lifestyle diabetes’ cannot or will not exercise sufficiently to improve their body’s resistance to insulin,” she said.

Without insulin, glucose levels rise in the blood, which can lead to serious complications including heart disease, stroke, and kidney or eye damage.

Dr Zhang and her colleagues’ research suggests that nitric oxide – which is produced in contracting, exercising muscles – plays a key role in making muscles effectively respond to insulin.

The positive results are evident for up to 48 hours after just 45 minutes of intense exercise.

“The next step is to identify how nitric oxide interacts with insulin and then develop drug therapies to mimic that,” she said.

Dr Zhang expects to have results of the project by 2017. She is collaborating with other researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Monash University, and the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.

Dr Zhang’s funding is part of the $3.9 million Diabetes Australia Research Program (DARP) for 2016. Since 1987 it has sponsored projects related to the prevention, management and cure of diabetes, especially for young and upcoming diabetes researchers.

Dr Zhang works in Professor Glenn McConell’s research group at ISEAL, based in Footscray.


Dr Zhang and Dr McConell are available for interview.

Photos are available of Dr Zhang in the lab and accepting her award.

Media Contact:
Ann Marie Angebrandt
: 03 9919 5487, 0401 100 576 or [email protected]


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