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20th October 2018 Latest News

Revolutionary Research into Type 1 Diabetes

Dr Sebastian Stead

Dr Sebastian Stead’s research will help those living with type 1 diabetes and pancreatitis

Kidney, Transplant and Diabetes Research Australia (KTDRA) proudly supported talented researcher Dr Sebastian Stead’s PhD project in 2017. Now, he has recently completed his PhD with some promising results that will help those suffering chronic conditions like type 1 diabetes and pancreatitis!

Working with Professor Toby Coates, Dr Stead’s PhD focused on researching a new way to prevent the severe side effects associated with anti-rejection medications, which are given to patients following an islet transplantation.

While investigating this area, Dr Stead found nanoparticles – which are over 200 times smaller than the thickness of a single human hair and loaded with specific medication – can switch off key immune cells that are responsible for organ rejection in transplant recipients.

“My PhD was very successful in producing some promising results, which we are very excited about. We discovered these nanoparticles could be used to change the immune system, producing a more ‘transplant protective’ environment,” Dr Stead said.

“The methods we developed can provide a more targeted mechanism to deliver drugs, minimising the side effects seen with normal immunosuppressive therapy for transplant recipients, as the drugs will not be interacting where they shouldn’t be.”

If this research proves as promising as it seems, it could also change the outcome of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes!

“Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s own immune cells attack and kill insulin producing cells, which control our blood sugar levels,” Dr Stead said.

“These nanoparticles could be implemented to switch off these immune cells, potentially stopping type 1 diabetes before it has caused too much damage.

“Currently however, when individuals are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a significant amount of damage has already occurred. For these cases, some individuals in Australia qualify for an islet cell transplantation. In this setting, immune cells still want to destroy islet cells.

 “This is where our nanoparticle therapy could be beneficial, once more, switching off these destructive cells, allowing the individual to live a long, diabetes free life.”

With these findings, the results have encouraged researchers at the University of Monash in Victoria to take over the project, in conjunction with Dr Stead and Prof Coates to see how much further it can go.

“We are definitely heading in the right direction and it will be exciting to see where this takes us.

“Thanks to the support from KTDRA and their donors, my PhD allowed me to travel quite extensively, both nationally and internationally to present my work to top professionals in their respected fields. This has allowed me to obtain priceless feedback which has been immeasurably useful in my research.”

Dr Stead is now studying Medicine at Flinders University and is hoping to continue this lifechanging research in the future!