Professor Stephen Twigg is a physician-scientist who has been researching diabetes mellitus, specifically growth factors in diabetes and its complications, since 1995. His program of research is dedicated to preventing, detecting, treating and reversing end-organ complications in diabetes. Specifically, his main interest is how diabetes mellitus causes tissue damage with a loss of function, and ways in which this can be addressed. Tissue fibrosis caused by growth factors in diabetes is a major focus. His research is bi-directional, thereby utilising a clinical setting as well as laboratory and animal research studies – a truly bench to bedside and back again approach.
Professor Twigg’s seminal breakthroughs have occurred in the following areas:
(i) The discovery during his PhD in the 1990s of a new method by which insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) circulate in human blood and its molecular basis; (ii) subsequently that a protein related to the IGFs, termed connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), is a major contributor to tissue complications in diabetes, including heart, kidney and liver fibrosis, whereas a lack of CTGF within diabetic foot ulcers likely delays wound healing in diabetes; (iii) Preclinical studies in diabetic wound healing have shown that the agent Propolis produced by bees, normalises diabetic wound healing, and this agent is now being tested by his PhD student in the diabetes foot ulcer clinic at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) Diabetes Centre.
Stephen Twigg on the new centre
Professor Twigg’s research is very well aligned to the centre’s mission and aims in that the study of prevention of diabetes and its complication is a principal metabolic disease based theme of the centre.
“As a concept the centre is simply superb. Metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease demand that in order to achieve tangible solutions a diverse array of experts contributing from a breadth of disciplines across the University is required.
“These experts include not only those in the medical, allied health, veterinary and enabling scientific fields but also in diverse disciplines such as social sciences, law, food science and architecture.
“The centre has the capacity to bring that melting pot of intellect and experience from across the University and hospital to bear on a medical and public health problem in collaboration with practical gain. The concept of TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) will be increasingly realised by the Centre in action.”
Professor Twigg has a personal chair through the Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney, is Head of the Endocrinology Research Laboratories and Deputy Head of the Department of Endocrinology at RPAH, Sydney.
He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications, holds competitive basic and clinical research funding from NHMRC, Diabetes Australia Research Trust and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. He has supervised seven PhD and Masters by thesis students to completion.
Professor Twigg provides leadership to the diabetes community and profession in his functions as immediate past-President of the Australian Diabetes Society and co-Chair of the Endocrinology division of the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation. He was a 10 year honorary board member of Diabetes Australia Ltd, is a current Diabetes Australia delegate to the International Diabetes Federation and is past chair of the Specialist Advisory Committee in Endocrinology of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Recently, he co-chaired the development of the first ever across the lifespan NHMRC of Australia National Evidence Based Clinical Care Guidelines in type 1 diabetes, which was published in 2011. He is the chair of the Diabetes and Driving Working Party, a project funded under the National Diabetes Services Schemes (Australian Diabetes Society that led to the new 2012 national publication in Assessing Fitness to Drive.