Fund supports TGen research into diabetes and its associated complications

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Oct. 11, 2011 - The late country music legend Waylon Jennings is famous for songs like Good Hearted Woman, Luckenbach Texas, and Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.

Now, his "kicking down the doors" style of music will infuse the Waylon Fund for Diabetes Research. Working with Waylon Jennings's widow, Jessi Colter, and their son Shooter Jennings, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today announced the establishment of the fund to support and accelerate research into diabetes.

Jennings, who lived much of his storied career in Arizona, died in 2002 at age 64 from complications of diabetes.

The Waylon Fund will support state-of-the-art investigations into the genetic and genomic origins of diabetes -a disease that afflicts nearly 26 million Americans- in an effort to produce better treatments and give patients better quality of life.

"I am honored to put Waylon's name behind TGen's diabetes research efforts. I have met the researchers and am confident that donations in Waylon's memory are an investment that will lead to better ways of preventing and detecting the disease," said Jessi Colter.

The new TGen initiative is drawing special support from the country-music industry. Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), Ernest Tubb Record Shops, and Music News Nashville already are promoting the fund.

Just as Waylon's "Outlaw" genre challenged the Nashville establishment and spearheaded the crossover appeal and re-popularization of country music, the Waylon Fund will enable TGen to challenge conventional ideas and discover novel ways of attacking diabetes.

"TGen is extremely grateful to the family of Waylon Jennings, who have so generously allowed his name to be the inspirational centerpiece of this promising new research effort," said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff.

All contributions to the Waylon Fund will be put to work immediately to speed the development of new treatments by enabling TGen researchers to conduct comprehensive genomic, or DNA, analysis of diabetes, using the latest technology.

Dr. Johanna DiStefano, Professor and Director of TGen's Diabetes, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Diseases Division, leads a team of researchers focused on the genetic factors that cause or contribute to complications due to Type I and Type II diabetes. Under Dr. DiStefano's direction, TGen's team of scientists has important work underway in five areas of diabetes research: heart disease, diabetic nephropathy, obesity, liver disease, and individualized treatment strategies.

From Dr. DiStefano's most recent work, which replicates findings and characterizes a cellular pathway that contributes to diabetes through changes in gene expression not DNA sequence, to the discovery of genes and genetic markers that contribute to our overall body of knowledge surrounding diabetes and its associated complications, TGen is at the forefront of today's diabetes research.

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