Researchers at SVI have made a lot of progress in understanding the autoimmune responses that arise in people with type 1 diabetes. Now we’re working on solving the mystery of why some people get type 1 diabetes, and yet most people don’t.

We believe that if we can understand what stops people from getting type 1 diabetes, we can apply this knowledge to identify people at greater risk of developing the condition and find ways to prevent them from developing the condition.

People at risk of developing type 1 diabetes include:

  • people who have a parent, brother, or sister with type 1 diabetes
  • children, teens and young adults – although it is possible to get type 1 diabetes at any age
  • people who have a Caucasian background – although people with other backgrounds can get type 1 diabetes, but it is not as common for them.


More information

  • About type 1 diabetes

    Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease, which develops when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.


    Insulin is essential for the body to keep a normal blood glucose concentration. Once the insulin-producing cells are destroyed, the body is unable to maintain its normal levels of insulin and blood glucose becomes dangerously high. If inadequately treated, type 1 diabetes can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, eye and kidney disease.


    People with type 1 diabetes must constantly be aware of their blood glucose levels, which are influenced by the amount of insulin in their system, what they eat, how much they exercise, and other factors like stress and illness.

    Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood. This means that many people will live most of their lives with the burden of trying to manage their body’s ongoing need for insulin.

    While daily insulin delivered via injection or infusion pump allows most people with type 1 diabetes to live their life as normal as possible. Nonetheless it is an ongoing challenge for them to keep their insulin at the right levels, and it doesn’t cure the disease or prevent long-term complications.

    How you can help

    As a living tissue, blood holds the key to many mysteries about what is happening at a fundamental, molecular level in our body. It provides clues to how the body detects and identifies foreign visitors – and why sometimes, it gets it wrong and attacks itself.

    We want to know what is happening at a cellular level in those people – what is their body doing differently that other people’s bodies aren’t?

    To answer this question, the researchers will look at markers called human leucocyte antigens, or HLA, which everyone has on most cells of their body. Their job is to help your immune system identify your cells as your own, so that it doesn’t see them as foreign and mistakenly initiate an immune response. There are different types of HLA, but there are a few in particular the researchers would like to explore. Your blood donation will help them do that.

    Are you eligible to donate for this study?

    We are interested in blood donations from people both with or without a family history of type 1 diabetes.

    If you:

    • are 18 years of age or over,
    • have not been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,
    • are reasonably healthy, and
    • can attend our offices in Fitzroy near the Melbourne CBD on one or two occasions to donate blood, you may be eligible to participate in our research study.

    Participants will receive a gift card, as a thank you for your time and support for our medical research.

    How do I organise my blood donation?

    Please contact our research nurse at (REDCap online form url) or [email protected]
    She will then be in touch to organise a day and time for you to come to our office at 9 Princes Street, Fitzroy, where she will go through your Patient Information Consent Form (PICF) with you to ensure you understand the research project and how your blood donation will be used.

    The nurse will take a cheek swab to test your HLA type and take some blood. HLAs are ‘markers’ that help your immune system recognise which cells belong in your body, and which might be ‘foreign’. We expect this visit to take about 30 minutes.

    All blood donors will receive a gift card as a thank you for supporting our research.

    We may contact you again to ask if you are interested in donating a second time. This will usually be about 2 – 4 weeks after your first donation but could be many months later.

    What happens to my blood donation?

    We’ll use your blood to test for the ways that the immune response stops itself from causing type 1 diabetes.

    By studying samples from lots of people, we hope to build up a picture of what is happening inside the body that stops type 1 diabetes from occurring in people who don’t develop the disease.


    More about this project

    This project is supported by a grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the work that has led us to this point in our research about the cause of type 1 diabetes, has been supported by the Australian Government (NHMRC), Diabetes Australia, JDRF-Australia and JDRF.

    This project has been approved by the St Vincent’s Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number: HREC-A 161/15).

    Other SVI type 1 diabetes programs and facilities