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cell-based therapies for type 1 diabetes
Research_

Type 1 diabetes

Pioneering new approaches to the challenge of diabetes

Our multidisciplinary team is working towards improvement management and, ultimately, preventing & curing type 1 diabetes

The Charles Perkins Centre brings together a wide range of expertise, with the central mission of easing the burden of living with chronic diseases, including diabetes.  

Our vision is to unite internationally-recognised experts with multidisciplinary, yet complementary expertise at the Charles Perkins Centre to create and implement creative solutions for people with type 1 diabetes. Currently there is no cure for type 1 diabetes and treatments have limited ability to maintain blood glucose within the narrow required range.  Therefore, our work spans across the spectrum from improving current therapies to finding a cure to preventing the disease altogether.

Finding a Cure

Cell-Based Therapies for Curing Type 1 Diabetes

Lead Investigators: Professor Peter Thorn (Project Leader), Dr Melkam Kebede, Professor Marcela Bilek, Professor Tony Weiss, Dr Steve Wise

We are using regenerative medicine approaches to replace the cells killed in type 1 diabetes and potentially cure diabetes.

We use human-induced pluripotent stem cells to generate cells with the aim that they will faithfully monitor blood glucose and secrete exactly the amount of insulin needed to control glucose levels.

To apply this therapeutically, we are using tissue engineering to create a microenvironment and encapsulation to protect these cells from immune attack. The aim is the cells will thrive and function within the patient. 

For more information, see www.thornlab.com/

Pancreas Transplants in Type 1 Diabetes

Lead Investigator: Professor Philip O’Connell

With the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas having been destroyed by the immune system, one option to cure type 1 diabetes is to transplant a new, fully-functioning pancreas. Pancreas transplants are particularly difficult and there are further challenges to ensure the body does not reject the new pancreas and the immune system does not mistakenly attack the insulin-producing cells and cause type 1 diabetes again.  The overarching aim of this research is to improve transplant outcomes by developing novel, clinically realistic, therapeutic options for patients with type 1 diabetes.  This includes the development of better immunosuppressive protocols and the production of graft tolerance after a short period of induction therapy.

Living Better with Type 1 Diabetes

Insulin Dosing for Fat & Protein in Type 1 Diabetes

Lead Investigators: Dr Kirstine Bell (Project Leader), Professor Stephen Twigg, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller

Traditionally, only carbohydrate is ‘counted’ when estimating mealtime insulin doses in type 1 diabetes.  However, research has shown fat and protein also have significant impacts on blood glucose levels & therefore need to be included in insulin dosing.

Our research uses mathematical modelling to predict an individualised mealtime insulin dose as well as the insulin pump delivery pattern (dual-wave split and duration) to maintain blood glucose levels within the narrow healthy range.

For more information, see www.ibolus4T1D.com

High Intensity Interval Training in Type 1 Diabetes

Lead Investigators: Dr Angela Lee and Professor Stephen Twigg

While being physically active has many benefits, managing blood glucose levels and avoiding hypoglycaemia before, during and after exercise can be a major barrier to exercise for individuals with type 1 diabetes.  This project is looking to understand more about the health benefits of high intensity internal training (HIIT) for those with type 1 individuals and how best to adjust insulin to avoid hypoglycaemia.

New Diabetes Technologies

Lead Investigator: Professor Alicia Jenkins

As individuals with type 1 diabetes cannot produce their own insulin, injecting insulin to maintain blood glucose levels in the tight healthy range is essential for survival. This research program investigates diabetes technologies to understand and improve the way insulin is delivered to the body (through an insulin pump), new and improved ways of measuring blood glucose levels without finger pricks (using continuous glucose monitoring devices) and systems to automatically adjust insulin delivery based on blood glucose levels (closed-loop systems). 

Preventing Type 1 Diabetes

Fighting Type 1 Diabetes with Fibre

Site Lead Investigators: Dr Kirstine Bell (CPC Principal Investigator), Professor Stephen Twigg

A highly specialised fibre was able to prevent 90% of cases of type 1 diabetes in mice.  This effect was achieved through the fibre supplement altering the gut microbiome, which in turn reduced systemic inflammation and prevented the autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.  

The first trial of this fibre in adults with type 1 diabetes is taking place at the Charles Perkins Centre. This first step is to see if the fibre elicits the same beneficial changes to the gut bacteria and inflammation in humans who already have type 1 diabetes.  This project could pave the way for a novel, cheap, highly-accessible and non-invasive dietary therapy for the widespread treatment and prevention of type 1 diabetes.

Preventing Diabetes Complications

Lead Investigator: Professor Alicia Jenkins

The (Fenofibrate and Microvascular Events) FAME 1 Eye Study is seeking to prevent vision loss in type 1 diabetes.  Over time, elevated blood glucose levels can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels around the body, including in the eyes.  This can lead to eye disease and blindness.  The FAME 1 Eye Study is investigating whether fenofibrate, a drug that is already on the market to lower cholesterol and blood fats, can slow or reverse eye damage and other complications in adults with type 1 diabetes. We know that fenofibrate improves blood fats and slows the progression of eye damage in people with type 2 diabetes, this study will see if it has the same effect in type 1 diabetes. 

We are striving to improve the lives of people living with type 1 diabetes through improved management options and, ultimately, through a cure.  We are also seeking to help those at risk of type 1 diabetes by exploring ways to prevent them from ever developing the condition.

Internal collaborators

External collaborators

  • Jencia Wong, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
  • Dr James Hudson, University of Queensland
  • Dr Enzo Porrello, University of Queensland
  • Dr Eliana Marino Moreno, Monash University
  • Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams, University of Queensland
  • Associate Professor Sonia Saad, Royal North Shore Hospital
  • Professor Garry Steil, Boston Childrens Hospital & Harvard Medical School, USA

Project Node Leader

Professor Peter Thorn
Professor Peter Thorn
"The team consists of expert leaders in the complementary approaches that are needed for the success of this project."
Visit Peter Thorn's profile