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20th October 2018 Latest News

Joining Forces for Lifesaving Diabetes Research

Chris Drogemuller and Claudine Bonder

Two groups leading revolutionary research into type 1 diabetes.

Working closely together for 10 years, two research groups from the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) and the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) are leading revolutionary research into type 1 diabetes, hoping to provide diabetics with a better quality of life.

Associate Professor Claudine Bonder and her team from CCB and Principal Scientist Christopher Drogemuller at the RAH, are trying to improve the success rate of islet cell transplants; a procedure aimed at eliminating the need for daily insulin injections for type 1 diabetics. Your kind support of projects like these could help save lives!

Currently, islet transplant recipients often require two islet transplants to have a chance of coming off insulin all together, because of a significant cell loss of 50-70 per cent within the first 48 hours following a transplant.

“The main reason for this is the time taken for the transplanted islets to re-establish their own blood supply, which is important as the islets make up only two per cent of the pancreas but draw on 10 per cent of the total pancreatic blood supply,” Mr Drogemuller said.

 “When the islets are removed from the pancreas, they lose their basement membrane and blood vessels first, both critical to function and long-term survival. This is where Associate Professor Bonder’s research comes in.”

A/Prof Bonder said the blood vessels were crucial within the pancreas to help its function. “My team and I are working to increase the transplantation success by trying to keep the insulin producing beta cells alive while being transplanted,” she said.

“We are focusing on how the beta cells and endothelial cells within the blood vessels communicate with each other to increase their capacity to access the blood supply for oxygen and nutrients. If we can keep more of them alive, the success rate for the patient should increase.”

Along with A/Prof Bonder’s research, Mr Drogemuller and the team hope to create an environment tolerant for the islet cells. When the islet cells are transplanted into the patient, they are recognised as foreign by the immune system and are destroyed.

To overcome this, recipients must take anti-rejection drugs to stop the immune system destroying the cells.

“We are also working with Professor Gordon Wallace and his group from the University of Wollongong who provided us with a custom-built 3D printer for this project,” Mr Drogemuller said.

“The printer enables us to print islets cells, blood vessel forming cells and a specialised immune cell in a 3-dimensional structure to support rapid regrowth of blood vessels within the islets following a transplant. The immune cells will provide immune-protection removing the need for anti-rejection drugs.”

If a higher success rate and better outcomes can be achieved, A/Prof Bonder said more patients with diabetes can be treated.

“People won’t have to live with diabetes for decades before we can help them,” she said.

“I feel really privileged to work alongside Prof Coates and his team and be on this research journey together. I’m excited to see what happens.”

By supporting KTDRA, we can ensure projects like these can continue to help those with type 1 diabetes.