© Dmitry Lobanov/Dollar Photo Club
Funding a cure for
type 1 diabetes
Doctors and scientists based at the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research and Westmead Hospital have been awarded $3.3 million to extend their research into a clinical cure for type 1 diabetes — a chronic autoimmune disease affecting 120,000 Australians.
successful. But so far its use has been limited to a
treat the disease before diabetes has manifested,”
small number of patients with so-called ‘brittle’
Professor O’Connell said.
“It will allow us to concentrate on prevention
“The current need for transplant recipients
and cure — so that one day, patients won’t
ype 1 diabetes destroys the body’s
to take powerful drugs for the rest of their lives
need insulin injections or pumps, and medical
insulin-producing cells, which normally prevent
to prevent islet rejection means the technique has
complications will be a thing of the past.”
blood-sugar levels from becoming dangerously high.
been reserved for people with life-threatening
The four-year research program will aim to
As noted by Professor Philip O’Connell, the leader
undetected hypoglycaemia and is not suitable for
develop alternative strategies that promote immune
of the Westmead research, “Until now, treatment
children or younger patients,” he said.
tolerance towards transplanted pancreatic islets,
has focused on managing the consequences and
Now, the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research
thereby making islet transplantation a viable
Network (T1DCRN) has awarded Professor
option for a wider range of Australians living with
Professor O’Connell and his team have sought
O’Connell’s team a grant to advance this research.
type 1 diabetes.
to change this, taking insulin-producing islet cells
The network’s funding is designed to plug the gap
“The average age of patients when they
from a donor pancreas and infusing them into
between lab-based research and expensive clinical
suffer the onset of type 1 diabetes is just 11 years,
the liver of a patient with type 1 diabetes via the
trials that prevents new type 1 diabetes treatments
so if we could successfully use pancreatic islet
portal vein. There, the islet cells populate and start
entering widespread use.
transplantation in the young, it would solve
complications of type 1 diabetes.”
producing insulin, providing a practical cure for an otherwise debilitating disease.
“Winning a grant of this size allows us to
a significant problem,” Professor O’Connell
assemble the necessary expertise to develop a
said. He added that the research could bring his
Professor O’Connell said clinical trials
completely new therapeutic paradigm, which
team closer to “achieving the goal of drug-free
underway at Westmead Hospital and elsewhere
not only has the potential to improve islet
immunosuppression, which may benefit the
since 2006 have proven the technique to be highly
transplantation but will also have the potential to
recipients of other types of transplants”.
4 | LAB+LIFE SCIENTIST - October 2015
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