United Nations World Diabetes Day is marked annually on 14 November, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting who with Charles Best discovered insulin in 1921. WDD is the largest diabetes awareness campaign in the world reaching over 1 billion people globally. It raises attention of the escalating health crisis, in the public and political arenas.
The Charles Perkins Centre Type 1 Diabetes Node brings together our internationally recognised experts with multidisciplinary expertise to design and implement collaborative solutions for people with type 1 diabetes.
Our work spans the spectrum from improving current therapies, to finding a cure for those living with the condition, to preventing type 1 diabetes altogether. Here we showcase just some of the world-leading type 1 diabetes research underway at the Charles Perkins Centre.
Senior Research Fellow | Principal Research Fellow, Australian Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot
“It’s our vision that all children in Australia will be offered screening for type 1 diabetes as a new, publicly-funded national screening program”.
Four children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every day in Australia but the vast majority have no family history and at least one in three aren’t diagnosed until they develop life-threatening complications. With a simple screening test, the autoimmune condition can be diagnosed in the very early stages, before children develop any signs or symptoms. A national screening program could virtually eliminate these life-threatening complications at diagnosis, improve immediate and long-term health outcomes as well as creating the window of opportunity to delay, or prevent the condition altogether. This national pilot aims to find the best way to offer screening in Australia.
Professor Stephen Twigg
Head of Central Clinical School, Kellion Professor of Endocrinology and Stan Clark Chair in Diabetes, Sydney Medical School (Central)
Chief Investigator, The Kellion Victory Medals Research Program
"Type 1 diabetes is different and it needs dedicated research. In recent years there has been very welcome progress in access to much-needed technology for people with type 1 diabetes in Australia, especially in federal government subsidy for continuous glucose monitoring devices. As a result people with type 1 diabetes are living better than ever before. However, enhanced patient access is required for insulin pump therapy, as well as further research in diabetes complications, to help people with type 1 diabetes live even healthier and to approach the excellent lifespan of the Australian general community."
The prevalence of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) in Australia is increasing adding to the ~140,000 of all Australians currently diagnosed with the condition. T1DM is associated with premature morbidity and mortality due to effects of diabetes complications on health. Yet some people with T1DM live 50 or more years (known as Kellion Victory Medallists); overall ~1900 such Medallists have been recognized across Australia. Studies from long-living medallists with T1DM in the USA and Canada, have characterised some, albeit few factor(s) that link to a reduced risk of diabetes complications developing or progressing, and to greater life expectancy in those with diabetes. The rationale for the Kellion Victory Medal Research Program (KVMP) is that the medallists have lived a long time with diabetes in Australia, and they may well have factors that protect them from diabetes complications, which, if identified through our clinical and lab research, could then become useful markers and/or targets to realise increased health and lifespan for people with type 1 diabetes.
Professor Peter Thorn
Chair of Molecular and Cellular Physiology
“Our research contributes to the goal of a cure for type 1 diabetes”.
Type 1 diabetes is not currently curable. It is a challenging disease to manage and there are serious consequences when things go wrong. Technological advances, such as continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps have revolutionised recent approaches to living with diabetes. However, they still require intervention and monitoring. Cell-based solutions use implants to replace the insulin-secreting cells that are killed in disease and fully restore normal function – effectively a cure for type 1 diabetes.
Work in my lab is discovering how normal insulin-secreting cells interact with their environment and then working with bioengineers to create artificial environments to optimise insulin secretion in implants.
Professor Wayne Hawthorne
Professor of Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University of Sydney
Director, National Pancreas and Islet Transplant Laboratories
“I have always strived to help patients overcome their overwhelming adversities by providing new and novel means to CURE their T1Diabetes using transplantation, whether that be pancreas, allo Islet or now excitingly with XENO-islets”
The Westmead Transplant Unit has completed more than 330 clinical islet cell isolations for the treatment of patients with Type 1 diabetes. However, there remains a significant lack of organ donors and as such Professor Hawthorne has established a Xeno (from non-human to human) Islet Transplant research program. Using his more than 25 years of experience in surgical models, immunology and transplantation, and ability to rapidly progress projects from preclinical models to the clinic. He has developed a new and novel Xeno-Islet transplant research program to translate xeno-islet cell transplantation to the clinic, and is one of only a few sites globally able to do so.
Professor Maria Craig
Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology, The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Academic Director, Australasian Diabetes Data Network (ADDN)
“The Australasian Diabetes Data Network (ADDN) harnesses the power of health data, capturing clinical data from thousands of people living with type 1 diabetes with the goal of improving outcomes for people with type 1 diabetes”
The ADDN database forms part of an Australasian data ecosystem, bringing together de-identified data from 25 diabetes clinics and hospitals across Australia and New Zealand into a single national platform, to foster collaborative research, answer key questions about T1D and improve long-term health outcomes. The data in ADDN offers many possibilities for improving clinical care – researchers can see how T1D progresses over time, when complications most commonly develop, and how different models of care impact on outcomes.