Skip to Content Skip to Navigation
20th June 2016 Latest News

Lifechanging Research: Artificial Skin to Treat Type 1 Diabetes

Professor Toby Coates

Lead clinicians Professor Toby Coates and Dr John Greenwood are changing lives

Artificial skin used to revolutionise treatment of burns patients across the globe is now being trialled as a potential site to transplant specialised cells used in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

This exciting work is being led by two Royal Adelaide Hospital clinicians, Professor Toby Coates, Director of Kidney and Pancreatic Islet Transplantation and Dr John Greenwood AM, Director of the Burns Unit.

In collaboration they are looking into the effectiveness of transplanting islet cells into artificial skin made of biodegradable polymer, rather than into the liver.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the insulin-producing islets in the pancreas are destroyed. Without insulin the body cannot convert glucose (sugar) into energy, and patients are at greater risk of developing kidney disease, stroke and heart attack.

This breakthrough in world-class transplantation science is only a reality thanks to past research in this area undertaken by Prof Coates, supported by the generous donor base of Kidney, Transplant and Diabetes Research Australia along with collaborating partner The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF).

The work has attracted attention all over the world with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) International contributing nearly $1 million to develop the new transplant procedure.

“Traditionally we transplant islet cells into the liver to help treat type 1 diabetes patients, however the harsh and unforgiving environment of the liver means that a large number of islet cells die during the process,” explained Prof Coates.

 “The key component of this research is to modify and optimise the artificial skin to create a new site to transplant islet cells in people with type 1 diabetes.”

Everyday 280 Australians develop diabetes – it is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia.

“This approach is now possible through the breakthrough in artificial skin technology pioneered by 2016 South Australian of the year Dr Greenwood who has changed the way burns are treated globally.

“Transplanting islets into the artificial skin instead of the liver is potentially a much safer procedure, which will reduce the total number of islets needed to transplant for diabetes and allow more people access to this life-changing transplant procedure.”

This research can change the lives of thousands of Australians living with type 1 diabetes