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Tune H Pers receives award for outstanding research on obesity and diabetes

portrait tune h pers. photo.
Tune H Pers is the recipient of the Leif C. Groop Award for Outstanding Diabetes Research in 2024. Photograph: Peter Andrew Stanners.

Do you think that people with obesity have themselves to blame? Tune H Pers tries to dispel persistent myths through his research on the brain's role in the development of obesity. The diabetes researcher at the University of Copenhagen is now awarded the LUDC Leif C. Groop award for his research on obesity and type 2 diabetes.

This year's recipient Tune H Pers investigates, among other things, the role of the brain for the development of obesity, a condition that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

"Many people are still of the opinion that people with obesity have themselves to blame and this can affect the self-esteem of those who are overweight. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a healthy lifestyle, but a growing evidence base suggests that obesity is more complex than we previously thought," says Tune H Pers, associate professor of cellular biology at the University of Copenhagen.

The ability to control eating

He is convinced that we will find some of the answers to the question of what causes obesity by studying mechanisms in the brain. In a study published in Nature Metabolism, Tune H Pers and his colleagues identified several cell populations in the brainstem that control the energy balance of mice. The researchers found that four of those cell populations were associated with genetic obesity predisposition. 

"We also showed that two of those populations were of particular importance for the ability to control eating. When we activated two of those cell populations, mice with a predisposition to obesity reduced their eating. It will be important to learn more about those processes to develop new new treatments for obesity," says Tune H Pers.

The role of the brain in type 2 diabetes

The role of the brain in type 2 diabetes is a relatively unexplored area. Previous research has shown that mice with high blood sugar levels can be cured from their diabetes after an injection of a growth-stimulating protein into a region of the brain named hypothalamus. In a study published in Nature Communications, Tune H Pers showed that sustained diabetes remission is dependent on specific receptor signaling in the brain. 

"Standard antidiabetic drugs can be effective but fail to deliver adequate glycemic control to many patients. We need to learn more about the role of the brain to develop better drugs," says Tune H Pers, who leads a research group at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen.

Leif Groop

Leif Groop, born 1947, worked as professor of endocrinology at Lund University from 1993 until retirement and was one of the founding members of Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC). He graduated as a physician at University of Bern, Switzerland, and did his PhD at the University of Helsinki. Leif Groop is globally recognised for his contributions to diabetes research, including pioneering work on genetics and heterogeneity of type 2 diabetes.

Justification for awarding

"Tune H Pers receives the Leif C. Groop Award for Outstanding Diabetes Research in 2024 for research that has increased the understanding of how specific brain areas and cell populations regulate glycemic control, energy homeostasis, and genetic predisposition to obesity. His groundbreaking research combines genetic data, single-cell technologies and machine learning and could lead to new treatments for patients with obesity or type 2 diabetes."

The Leif C. Groop Award for Outstanding Diabetes Research

The Leif C. Groop award is awarded annually by Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC) to a young outstanding researcher within the field of diabetes who is active in the Nordic countries. The prize money of 100,000 SEK is awarded for scientific excellence that will benefits patients suffering from diabetes.

The award will be presented in connection with the LUDC DPLU Diabetes research day on February 27 where the recipient will give a lecture.