PhD, McMaster University 1993
Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, and Medicine
Geoff Werstuck received post-doctoral training at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
Werstuck says his career interests have expanded over the years in what he describes as a “natural progression of things” as he moved toward more applied research with direct relevance to health-care.
Werstuck’s current research goal is to determine why people with diabetes have a significantly higher risk of dying from heart attacks and strokes than those without diabetes.
The last few decades have witnessed a worldwide increase in the incidence of diabetes.
Werstuck says there’s been a dramatic decrease in deaths due to heart attacks and strokes since the 1950’s, but he predicts a rebound in these numbers with the increase of people with diabetes.
This increase is driven by changes in lifestyle and an escalating rate of obesity, both of which mean the number of individuals with diabetes is expected to reach 366 million by the year 2030.
Therefore, the diabetes epidemic is, and will continue to be, a global health crisis.
Werstuck says this will be a huge problem for the Canadian health care system because there is no cure for diabetes, only treatment.
Complications associated with diabetes make it a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputations in adults as well as a leading cause of cardiovascular disease.
In fact, Werstuck says, over 75 per cent of people with diabetes will die of a heart attack or stroke. He says the treatment and prevention for this possibility is limited by a lack of understanding of how diabetes causes heart disease – a problem he and his laboratory are trying to fix.
To do this, Werstuck and his laboratory employs a broad range of experimental strategies and techniques, spanning from the study of individual molecules to people.
The specific goals of Werstuck's research are to:
- Identify how diabetes and high blood sugar levels affect the blood vessels to cause heart disease
- Develop drugs that protect blood vessels from high blood sugar.
- Test and improve these treatments so they can be used in people with diabetes
Werstuck has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. His research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and the Canadian Diabetes Association.
By Caileen Weitz