Collaboration key to fighting diabetes

DiabetesThis week we reflect on the 2013 World Diabetes Congress (WDC) that was held in Melbourne between the 2-6 December. It was the biggest medical conference that’s ever been held in Australia, with over 10,000 delegates from over 130 countries, including world experts in science and health, diabetes sufferers, and their carers from all around the globe.

Not to miss out, a team of our diabetes and liver researchers from Centenary Institute presented some of their latest discoveries and listened to other experts in the field.

The conference had an impressive opening, the president of the International Diabetes Foundation, Sir Michael Hirst, announced that the Australian federal government had just chosen a team of parliamentary diabetes champions to support the new Melbourne Declaration on Diabetes. The signatories have all committed themselves to working across Parliaments to ensure that diabetes is high on the political agenda in every country.

In addition, the Honorable Fiona Nash (Assistant Minister for Health), also announced that the government will be providing a $35 million grant to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network, in its efforts to help find a much needed cure for Type 1 diabetes.

This grant will be alongside a $1.4 million grant for the Type 1 Diabetes Insulin Pump Programme, which hopes to benefit more than 200 children and their families with subsidised access to insulin pumps over the next year.

This collaboration between research institutes and government is essential, and has the potential to benefit diabetes research and discoveries hugely.

DiabetesAt Centenary Institute we also encourage collaboration between our labs as well as our neighboring institutions.

Ms Sumaiya Chowdhury of Centenary Institute presented our collaborative work that shows that one of the enzymes we study may be a target to develop as a new diabetes therapy.

It was from another such collaboration that Kathryn Williams, a University of Sydney PhD student and RPA Hospital clinician, gave a talk on her research that uses a blood test devised by us at Centenary Institute and shows how this test can be useful in evaluating fatty liver in diabetes. Needless to say the talk by Kathryn was superb and well received with many questions.

Detecting the presence of significant liver damage is often one of the most difficult diabetes complications to assess and Kathryn’s research presents a new diagnostic that has the potential to lessen stress, discomfort and healthcare costs for diabetes patients worldwide.

People with diabetes are at increased risk of diabetes complications that damage many other organs. This stresses the need for collaborative research into Diabetes with other disease areas, as Diabetes is well recognised to cause heart, kidney, eye and vascular disease.

However, emerging data has arisen that more than 5.5 million Australians have fatty liver. Our study was typical in that 90% of Type 2 Diabetes patients had fatty liver disease. This is a significant problem for the long-term health of Diabetes sufferers.

Furthermore, Diabetes in association with Obesity is also being recognised as a cause of Primary Liver Cancer.

The Liver Transplant Unit at RPA Hospital, lead by our Liver Group Head, Professor Geoff McCaughan, has seen an increasing number of patients presenting with liver failure and liver Cancer associated with fatty liver and Diabetes over the past three years.

At Centenary Institute our Diabetes and Liver researchers work closely together and we are particularly keen to devise ways to detect, prevent and reverse liver damage – especially in Diabetes sufferers.