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Transplantation Immunology Lab

Our lab is working towards a cure for type 1 diabetes.

More than 100,000 Australians have type 1 diabetes, a serious and life-threatening illness for which there is currently no cure. Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents. Australia is among the top ten countries globally for the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children under 15. Some studies suggest that Australia has the sixth highest incidence rate worldwide.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the tissues that control blood sugar levels are destroyed by the immune system, leading to permanently high sugar levels in the blood. Over time, high blood sugar levels result in serious illnesses including heart attack, stroke, blindness and kidney disease.

Our team is probing the molecular causes of this disease, with the aim of using this knowledge to create new therapeutics for its treatment. We are using state-of-the-art gene analysis technologies, molecular biology techniques and experimental models of diabetes to aid us in our search for a cure. In one aspect of our work, we have discovered novel genes that control how insulin-producing cells die when they are attacked by the immune system. We are also interested to learn more about the genes that contribute to type 1 diabetes at the functional level. For this study, we are analysing the genes of people who have type 1 diabetes, as well as diabetic complications such as hypoglycaemia and unawareness.

One outcome of our work is the development of a ‘death-defying’ insulin-producing cell, which would be impervious to an immune system attack and allow restoration of normal blood sugar levels. Our tests show that these death-defying cells can restore normal blood sugar control in preclinical models. Our aim is to take these findings further towards human trials.

There are many people with type 1 diabetes and some will develop complications. Unfortunately, we do not have a clear understanding of why some people get hypoglycaemia unawareness or kidney disease. Ultimately, our goal is to overcome these obstacles and make a significant contribution to human health.

Research team