- The international discovery of more than 50 genes causing type 1 diabetes – an enormous leap forward for understanding the genetic pathways of diabetes and for creating better treatments to prevent and cure it.
- Finding that while most of the known type 1 diabetes genes showed a significant effect in Australian families, many appeared to have no effect, suggesting there are environmental interactions with these genes that cause the condition, and that these environmental factors differ between Australia and the UK/USA.
- The development of the field of Systems Genetics which goes beyond using single genes and instead looks
at how each gene can have an effect on whole networks of genes and whole systems. It has been used to test 53 known type 1 diabetes genes and showed only 11 genes could cause a change in proteins, while 25 controlled the expression of nearby genes and 17 controlled the expression of distant genes. This data could open up new pathways for treating type 1 diabetes.
- Identifying how to produce pancreatic beta cells from precursor cells. The ultimate hope is being able to trial the breakthrough in humans with a view to providing new, more permanent treatments or a cure for type 1 diabetes.
- Finding that women with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes have a mortality rate before the age of 40 that is 11 times higher than the general population. Key risk factors for these women include poor long-term control of blood sugar levels, low socioeconomic status, and four or more episodes of dangerously low blood glucose levels during their childhood years. This information may help to turn around the situation by identifying those women who need closer care while still young.
Discovering in a study of WA children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, that they are more than twice as likely to be affected by mental health disorders, such as anxiety, eating, and personality and behaviour disorders, during early adulthood than their peers, knowledge that could help prevent such issues.
The discovery of a way to genetic information to predict – at the time a person is diagnosed and years before symptoms develop – the risk of them going on to develop diabetes complications. This knowledge could be used to better care for people with diabetes, prevent complications and significantly reduce health care costs.
Defining a genetic signature of a high-risk group of people who are likely to develop type 1 diabetes within four years of having auto-antibodies. This breakthrough could allow more powerful and more economical clinical trials to test treatments to prevent it.
Helping validate a model to predict teenagers with type 1 diabetes who are at greatest risk of early kidney problems, therefore being able to potentially reduce the risk.
Discovering 6 subtypes or ‘signatures’ of type 1 diabetes.
Additionally, in 2004 we helped establish The Centre for Diabetes Research to increase the efforts of researchers and scientists. Since then Professor Grant Morahan and his team have made outstanding progress in understanding the genetic risks associated with type 1 diabetes. We continue to support researchers within the Centre and are proud of the team's achievements.