People with type 1 diabetes can’t make insulin, the hormone that regulates the body’s use of glucose. Insulin is produced by beta cells in the pancreas, which are found in small clumps of cells called islets. In type 1 diabetes, beta cells are mistakenly attacked and destroyed by the immune system. Our Unit is a strong diabetes-focused team made up of five groups focused on human immunology, mouse models of diabetes, islet biology, genomics and immunology, and immunogenetics.
We are the largest type 1 diabetes research group in Australia with over 50 scientific staff and students. Our work is focused on understanding the pathophysiology of type 1 diabetes and is currently funded by Program and Project Grants from the NHMRC and JDRF, and a CRC.
Our group has been responsible for bringing together a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians to establish the Tom Mandel Islet Transplant Program in Melbourne. This program is part of the Australian Islet Transplant Consortium that has delivered improved clinical outcomes for patients with type 1 diabetes with severe hypoglycemia unawareness in whom insulin therapy has failed. These transplanted patients have improved glycemic control and quality of life and, in many cases, no longer require insulin injections. The program provides a valuable opportunity for clinical research both on the transplant recipients and on the excess human islets obtained but not transplanted. In the future, this program will provide a platform for future innovations in beta-cell replacement for type 1 diabetes.