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Doctorate for Belfast man leading diabetes study

By Lindsay Fergus

Published 27/06/2011

A Belfast man who explored new ways to treat diabetes was today celebrating a PhD on the first day of the University of Ulster's summer graduation ceremonies.

Barry Kerr's doctoral research looked at ways to combat Type 2 diabetes by chemically modifying gut molecules produced naturally in the body.

Barry explained: "Gut molecules produced in the intestine are released following eating. Once in the circulation they stimulate the secretion of the hormone insulin, which lowers blood sugar concentrations as well as suppressing appetite.

"Unfortunately, these naturally-occurring gut molecules, known as GLP-1 and GIP, are very short-acting so we are developing longer-acting versions to make them work more effectively. The research suggests that future therapies may not only focus on single drug targets, but could be used together with other antidiabetic/antiobesity drugs offering a targeted 'smart therapy'."

Barry, who is currently studying medicine at the University of Dundee, admits that his career path to date has not quite followed a conventional trajectory.

"When I graduated in 2004 I didn't have a job so I volunteered to take part in a diabetes research project," he said. "When the project was over, I decided to go back to university to complete a masters at Coleraine and then a PhD focusing on diabetes research."

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