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Diabetes mellitus

A group of diseases that affect how the body uses glucose – an important source of energy for cells

Diabetes millitus is a group of diseases which prevent the body from maintaining healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a major fuel source for the body and comes from the food we eat. Our bodies convert glucose into energy using a hormone called insulin. If the body doesn't produce sufficient amounts of insulin, unhealthy levels of glucose occur in the blood. This can lead to both short-term and long-term complications, including kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, depression and blindness.

There are four main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, prediabetes and gestational diabetes. Research at Garvan predominately focuses on type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which are estimated to collectively affect 600 million people globally by 2035.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks pancreatic beta cells – the cells that make insulin. With these cells damaged, the body can’t make insulin, leading to dangerously high blood sugar levels which can cause organ damage, or dangerously low blood-sugar levels, which can lead to loss of consciousness and brain damage. We do not yet know what causes the body to attack the pancreatic beta cells.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin or use it effectively. While we do not yet know the cause of type 2 diabetes, it is more prevalent in those with a family history, or in females who have previously experienced gestational diabetes. Certain ethnicities, medical conditions or lifestyle factors also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

For more information about diabetes mellitus, visit HealthDirect.

Diabetes mellitus research at Garvan

Diabetes research at Garvan is diverse, innovative and driven by state-of-the-art genomic technologies. We’re investigating why the immune system attacks itself in type 1 diabetes and whether transplanting genetically enhanced pancreatic beta cells can reduce a patient’s reliance on insulin injections. We’re also researching the links between genetics, epigenetics, weight, metabolism and insulin resistance, to guide earlier and better prevention and more personalised treatment of type 2 diabetes.