Posted 18 May 2023

Diabetes Australia grant supports new generation research

Dr Andrew Sutherland has been awarded Diabetes Australia Research Program (DARP) grant funding for his work using regulatory T-cell (Treg) engineering to assist in the development of treatments for type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is caused when the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Recent research has shown that Tregs, a particular type of immune cell, control the autoimmune responses that cause type 1 diabetes.

“This DARP grant will allow us to will use techniques such as gene editing, to create these Tregs in large quantities and explore ways to protect them against the loss of their suppressive function, which occurs as type 1 diabetes progresses,” says Andrew.

While there are currently promising new therapies using Tregs in clinical development for a range of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, advances in their development are hindered by the availability of Tregs that specifically target biological markers called antigens that appear when the insulin-producing beta cells are damaged.

“If successful, this project could pave the way for a new generation of immune therapies, using engineered Tregs,” says Andrew.

Creating the antigen specific Tregs will require expression of T cell receptors that are specific for islet antigens, which is not really covered by the term “gene editing”.

You can learn more about Andrew’s research by clicking here.