BEATING DIABETES: ground-breaking intestinal research

Background

Diabetes is predicted to become the major cause of mortality in the Australian community by 2016. This condition is particularly prevalent in disadvantaged groups, including indigenous communities. Australia is not alone. The incidence of diabetes across Asia, the South Pacific, the Mediterranean, China and India is rising rapidly.

The project

This research project will identify new approaches to prevention and treatment of diabetes and related diseases by investigating the role of the gut and harmful bacteria in visceral fat and systemic metabolic dysfunction. It is well known that obesity and diabetes are linked but it is not total body fat, it is the fat around your middle and particularly around your intestinal organs which is dangerous. The levels of this so-called visceral fat relate closely to failure of insulin to work properly-leading to diabetes and chronic inflammation, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Exciting new research at the University of Sydney is giving insights into why people develop diabetes. Recent findings show that the problem may begin in your intestines.

The bacteria in the gut can be divided into those which are bad (causing intestinal inflammation and other problems) and those which are protective. Genetic factors from your parents, the environment you had in the womb during pregnancy and dietary patterns over your lifespan influence the type of bugs in your gut. Some individuals have many more of the bad bugs and fewer of the good, predisposing them to disease.

Benefits

We now need to begin a clinical trial on patients to find out why visceral fat accumulates in some people, and why it becomes so harmful to the metabolism. From there, we have the potential to develop entirely new “gut-targeted” therapies including new dietary approaches and pharmaceuticals with which to battle the diabetes epidemic.

Bacteria

Investigating the role of the gut and harmful bacteria.



Fundraising target: $240,000 (two years)

Project leader: Professor Len Storlien, Director of Basic Research, Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition & Exercise, the University of Sydney.