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Greg Brown Diabetes & Endocrinology Research Laboratory

Understanding the origin of endocrine-related diseases
We explore diabetes and other metabolic diseases, from the causes to the complications, to bring the outcomes of our research from the laboratories to the clinics and improve patients' lives.

We aim to accelerate the understanding of diabetes, its complications, and other metabolic disease, in order to benefit people who have these conditions.

Our lab conducts research into the mechanisms and pathogenesis of various key complications associated with diabetes, including:

  • diabetic wound healing
  • diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease)
  • cardiomyopathy (heart disease)
  • liver fibrosis
  • neuropathy (nerve pain).

We also identify markers for thyroid cancer progression and recurrence and undertake research into prostate cancer. These studies utilise strong links across clinical and academic spheres to integrate “bench-to-bedside” translational research. Our studies are continuous with the University of Sydney’s endocrinology laboratory research undertaken on site during the past 50 years, led at that time by Emeritus Professor John Turtle, then by Emeritus Professor Dennis Yue.

We have published key articles on diabetes and fatty liver, diabetes and wounds, and diabetes and circulating dysregulation of white cells in top journals in the field. These contribute to outcomes that impact positively on national and international guidelines as well as translational aspects of clinical care and management algorithms.

Our diabetes and fatty liver disease research has been translated and integrated into the commencement of a multidisciplinary Diabetes and Liver Clinic by Professor Stephen Twigg,  Associate Professor Samantha Hocking and liver specialist collaborators Professor Geoffrey McCaughan, Associate Professor Mark Gorrell, and Associate Professor Simone Strasser.

The Endocrinology node at the Charles Perkins Centre RPA Clinic is enabling multidisciplinary research into diabetes and liver disease and supporting multidisciplinary studies in type 1 and type 2 diabetes and exercise.

Our research laboratory data in diabetes and wound healing using propolis (from bees) in rats to aid healing study leading by Associate Professor Susan McLennan has been realised in a human feasibility study to good effect being carried out by Professor Stephen Twigg, now requiring a large multicentre translational study. We also have collaborations with Dr Philip Boughton from Biomedical Engineering in topical treatments (Scaffolds) in wound healing in diabetes.

Chronic inflammation in diabetes can increase the ability of white blood cells to move out of circulation and into kidney tissue where they cause local inflammation and damage that may contribute to the development of diabetic nephropathy. This study, by Dr Danqing Min and Associate Professor Susan McLennan with collaborators from the Diabetes Centre, allows us to improve and extend our knowledge of the causes of diabetic nephropathy and may provide potential new treatment strategies to benefit patients in the future.

In hyperthyroidism, we’ve carried out a clinical audit of Graves’ disease cases seen in the Endocrine and Metabolic Unit from 2000 to 2010, and studies on the TSH receptor antibodies are ongoing by researchers Associate Professor Elizabeth Chua, Dr Albert Hsieh, Professor Stephen Twigg and Associate Professor Susan McLennan with Associate Professor Stephen Aldestein.

The search for genetic markers in aiding thyroid cancer diagnosis and prognosis is being carried out by researchers Associate Professor Elizabeth Chua, Dr Ash Gargya, Associate Professor Susan McLennan, Dr Catherine Woolnough and collaborators Associate Professor Michael Elliott and Associate Professor Ruta Gupta.

Studies of exercise types in high-fed mice are being undertaken by Professor Stephen Twigg with Mr Sergio Martinez and collaborators to target muscle, liver and fat pathologies. Dr Angela Lee and Professor Stephen Twigg, along with cardiologist Professor Stuart Grieve, are undertaking research studies in type 1 diabetes and exercise in the Charles Perkins Centre RPA Clinic, aiming to improve blood glucose and to prevent diabetes complications. International collaborative studies of exercise in prediabetes (termed PACE-G) are also underway, by Dr Danqing Min, Dr Xiaoyu Wang, Associate Professor Susan McLennan, and Professor Stephen Twigg, with exercise physiologist Associate Professor Nathan Johnson from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

We have also undertaken studies of breath ketone testing in collaboration with University Engineering Prof Xiaoke Yi and her colleagues, and studies of ketogenic diets in collaboration with our Metabolism & Obesity Services (MOS) RPAH.

Prostate cancer is one of the hormone-related endocrine tumours. Associate Professor Qihan Dong and associates Dr Mu Yao and Dr Amber Xie are developing new methods to prevent prostate cancer progression in men who are under active surveillance. Cancers are made up of both actively dividing and “resting” cancer cells. These “resting” (or quiescent) cancer cells are thought to be central to progression. The team has determined the potential of compounds isolated from edible plant and herbal medicine in blocking the transition from the quiescent to actively dividing state, which result in rigorous scientific and clinical studies, and then translate into regular clinical use.

Our research falls into three major areas:

Diabetes and its complications research

Prediabetes and obesity

  • fat cell differentiation
  • Impact of Exercise Intervention on the Phenome (Metabolism and Predictive Complications) in Well Characterised Prediabetes and New Onset Type 2 Diabetes Cohorts in China and Australia (PACE-G Study)  

Thyroid diseases

Associate Professor Susan McLennan, The University of Sydney School of Medicine
Associate Professor Paul Williams, The University of Sydney School of Medicine
Associate Professor Samantha Hocking, The University of Sydney School of Medicine
Associate Professor Qihan Dong, The University of Sydney School of Medicine
Dr Danqing Min, The University of Sydney School of Medicine
Dr Mu Yao, The University of Sydney School of Medicine

Head of laboratory

Professor Stephen Twigg
Professor Stephen Twigg
“Our work continues to improve the quality of life now and into the future for people with metabolic disease such as diabetes.”
View Stephen Twigg's profile