The Hunt For The ‘Missing Link’

Posted on 12.06.2019

Medical chemist Sarah Bisgaard Olesen of Aarhus University is on the hunt for the ‘missing link’. Not the link between apes and humans, but the important link between a little sugar substance and its role in the development of age-related diseases such as diabetes. Researchers know this link exists, but they do not know what to look for among thousands of possibilities.

‘The uncertainty is significantly inhibiting progress in the area, because researchers don’t know where to focus in their effort to curb the development of the disease. We are looking for a needle in a haystack’, says Sarah Bisgaard Olesen.

She believes the relevant link will be found, and in any event she has now received 1.1 million Danish kroner from the Danish Diabetes Academy to enable her to devote two years to finding it during her PhD project.

One important reason for her optimism is a tool developed by a research group led by her supervisor, Professor Mogens Johannsen of Aarhus University – although Sarah Bisgaard Olesen also took part in the work herself.

What they have developed is a sugar substance with a sort of ‘chemical handle’ that makes it possible to identify the link – the proteins most easily damaged by raised blood sugar – and the goal of Sarah Bisgaard Olesen’s PhD project is, in the first instance, to map the key proteins.

‘Subsequently, we hope to be able to identify the mechanisms that are key to the development of diabetes and late diabetic complications. If we succeed, it will in future be easier to direct an effort towards early treatment and possible prevention, to the benefit of the individual patient’, she says.

Defending her master’s thesis on Friday 14 June

Sarah Bisgaard Olesen, 25, will defend her master’s thesis on Friday 14 June with the composure that comes from being the young researcher judged most highly by the Danish Diabetes Academy’s international advisory board. ‘The topic is excellent, and the originality of approach puts her work at the forefront of the research field’, say the judges.

FACTS about the Danish Diabetes Academy

The Danish Diabetes Academy was founded in 2012 and is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Danish universities and university hospitals. Its objective is to strengthen Danish diabetes research and treatment by helping to train the diabetes researchers and practitioners of the future.

Sarah Bisgaard Olesen
Medical chemist
Aarhus University
Faculty of Health
Tel. + 45 50 47 32 77

Danish Diabetes Academy
Managing Director Tore Christiansen
Tel. +45 29646764

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