Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease affecting more than 2.2 million Canadians. The disease is characterized by the body’s inability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin — a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. Over time, high levels of blood glucose can lead to complications like blindness, heart disease, stroke and kidney problems. Although the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing, its cause is still poorly understood. Type 2 diabetes results from a combination of beta-cell failure and insulin resistance. Obesity has long been known to be a major risk factor in the development of diabetes, and a leading hypothesis is that high saturated free fatty acids in the blood stream (hyperlipidemia) contribute to beta-cell death. Recent studies have also found that variations in certain genes, called “diabetes genes,” may increase susceptibility to the disease and play a role in beta-cell death. Kamila Gwiazda is investigating how these networks of diabetes susceptibility genes and acquired risk factors, such as hyperlipidemia, regulate beta-cell death and cause the onset and progression of type 2 diabetes. Gwiazda’s research could explain how obesity leads to diabetes and triggers other diseases that commonly occur in diabetics, ultimately leading to new therapies to prevent and treat the disease more effectively.