I have been waiting for a cure for type 1 diabetes since being diagnosed in 1979….I was told it would be 20 years to a cure, and here I am 37 years later still waiting…I have heard many of you out there with similar stories. I guess it is a case of giving us hope at diagnosis, and that is important, but sometimes this hope being dashed over and over can lead to a sense of hopelessness. I think it is important to have a balance between hoping and supporting the drive to a cure for diabetes, with research that actually makes our lives with diabetes easier, better, less troublesome, because let’s face it, for many of us already living with diabetes, the chances of a cure are pretty low. Much of the research currently is targeted at prevention of diabetes (type 1 and type 2) and this is a great thing. The more we can prevent the condition developing, the better. It is still just as important to keep creating better options for insulin delivery, better devices and medications, and reaching for the epic concept of a closed loop system which will help those of us with type 1 diabetes in particular, to get on with a better life.
It is easy to become cynical however….especially when there are regular headlines pronouncing the “cure” for diabetes has been found. Only to discover it is a study in mice that may never be translated to humans, or that it is a clickbait article, or worse….an article claiming to cure diabetes with a fruit from some random island, or a diet involving raw foods…
However, despite this cynicism, the need to push on for seeking a cure for diabetes remains paramount and there are many steps taken on this journey, that may uncover something, however small, which may just lead to the golden egg. Research is like that – a lot of steps in various directions have to be taken and they are not always fruitful, yet something that seems insignificant, may later become very important. Associate Professor Stuart Mannering, a global leader in diabetes research, is hoping he can discover a therapy that will ‘turn-off’ the immune response that may cause type 1 diabetes. This has always been the biggie when it comes to type 1 diabetes, because even if you transplant a healthy pancreas, or islet cells, into a person with type 1 diabetes, our immune system is still the major issue.
Diabetes Australia have just announced the prestigious 2017 Millennium Award for Type 1 Diabetes to Associate Professor Mannering for his work at St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research. The Award provides funding of $150,000. Diabetes Australia also announced the 2017 Millennium Award for Type 2 diabetes which goes to Dr Seth Masters from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research who will be able to continue his research into how the immune system contributes to obesity, associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes Australia CEO A/Professor Greg Johnson said Diabetes Australia is committed to funding research into all types of diabetes to discover new therapies and treatments to help Australia respond to the diabetes epidemic.
“Further research into all types of diabetes is essential. The Diabetes Australia Millennium Awards provide significant funding to world leading researchers working on projects that will help us understand fundamental questions like what causes type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes,” A/Professor Johnson said. “The holy grail of diabetes research is a cure and we will continue to invest in research until that becomes a reality. We have some of the world’s best diabetes researchers – but they need our support with funding and other assistance.”
Associate Professor Stuart Mannering said he hoped his research would pave the way for a vaccine to prevent people from developing type 1 diabetes.
“We are looking at the specific immune responses that we think trigger type 1 diabetes,” Associate Professor Mannering said. “At this stage we have identified a particular molecule, ‘C-peptide’, which may trigger an immune response that leads to the development of type 1 diabetes. We are looking at ways of developing a blood test that could alert us to this immune response at work which could then lead us to developing a vaccine.”
Dr Seth Masters from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, said his research was focussed on immune signals that can fight obesity, and help to prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes.
“The immune system can detect when an individual is becoming obese, and sends signals to try and stop this from happening. We think that the body becomes resistant to these signals, increasing the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes,” Dr Masters said. “My research is looking into how the immune system detects persistent excess food intake and then how molecules made by immune cells can keep fat levels in a normal range. If we can understand how these immune molecules deplete fat stores, then we may be able to use them safely to treat obesity and prevent type 2 diabetes.”
The Millennium Grants are part of a suite of research projects Diabetes Australia funds through the Diabetes Australia Research Program. In 2017 the Diabetes Australia Research Program funded 50 new research grants across all types of diabetes, and in a range of aspects of living with the condition. The Diabetes Australia Research Program was established in 1987 to support and develop diabetes related research across Australia. The programme provides funding towards the prevention, management and cure of all types of diabetes, as well as enabling and fostering young and upcoming researchers in the field of diabetes research.
Let’s hope that they can crack the code, and prevent more people in the future from having to live with the roller coaster of diabetes, and if not, then let’s hope it leads to something that will.