Our type 2 diabetes research

Garvan’s world-class type 2 diabetes research

Globally there is a very high incidence of T2D, with more than 350 million sufferers worldwide. While there have been no new treatments for decades, our work is shedding light on the links between genetics, epigenetics, weight, metabolism and insulin resistance. This points the way to earlier and better prevention and more personalised treatment.

The Garvan Institute has nearly 100 scientists and clinicians working together to understand the complexity of metabolic disease. You can donate to our search for better treatments and patient outcomes.

Personalised medicine

Garvan recently became one of the first medical research institutes in the world to acquire technology that can sequence a whole human genome at high throughput and low cost.

Using whole-genome sequencing to research deeply into our DNA has led to the discovery that most disease is linked to genetic mutations. Instead of trying to treat the symptoms of the disease, we can now aim to treat the mutations causing them. This is personalised medicine.

Whole-genome sequencing gives the Diabetes and Metabolism research teams the unparalleled ability to test families with a genetic risk for diabetes, vastly increasing our understanding of metabolic disorders and leading to better prevention and more effective personalised medicine.

Research areas

(L-R) Prof Jerry Greenfield, Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet and Prof Mark Febbraio
(L-R) Prof Jerry Greenfield, Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet and Prof Mark Febbraio

Reversal of pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes precedes diabetes by many years and affects as many as 40% of adults globally. Pre-diabetes is caused when the body tissues – in particular muscle, liver and fat – fail to respond to insulin and become insulin resistant. When insulin resistance is accompanied by a defect in insulin secretion, this results in T2D.

‘By measuring body fat content, liver fat, blood markers, genome and signatures of microorganisms in the stool, we are looking to predict treatment success.’

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Prof Mark Febbraio
Prof Mark Febbraio

New treatments for T2D

Professor Febbraio and his group have recently demonstrated a new potential therapeutic target for obesity-induced insulin resistance.

‘IC7 is a potent treatment for T2D that acts to reduce obesity, improve glucose tolerance, reduce fasting glucose and decrease fatty liver.’

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Prof Jerry Greenfield (right), Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet (left) & Daniel Chen
Prof Jerry Greenfield (right), Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet (left) & Daniel Chen

Healthy Obesity?

Although carrying excess weight is a major risk factor for a host of health problems like T2D, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and high blood pressure, we also know that some obese people seem to stay ‘metabolically healthy’ even if the reasons aren’t clear.

‘The demonstration that insulin sensitivity in the liver and muscle may occur independently in humans, potentially paves the way for earlier detection and individualised treatment of people at risk of developing metabolic disease.’

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Prof Lesley Campbell
Prof Lesley Campbell

Genetic predisposition to T2D

Professor Campbell and her team are studying apparently healthy people who carry genes with a susceptibility to diabetes and who show subtle physiological differences, even at the time when they are still non-diabetic by standard blood sugar tests.

‘We are now moving ahead to assess the effect of varied treatments to prevent progression to diabetes. This could be a major step to help reduce the prevalence of this disease and to detect it before harm is done.’

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National and International Collaborations

  • Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  • Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  • Centre for Healthy Brain and Ageing, UNSW Sydney, Australia
  • CSIRO, Sydney, Australia
  • Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
  • Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia
  • Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA
  • John Curtin School of Medical Research, Perth, Australia
  • Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Australia
  • St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • University of Cologne, Germany
  • University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • University of Kiel, Germany
  • University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.