Non-technical research summary
My laboratory is interested in understanding what causes the common disease type 1 diabetes, and devising new ways for treatment and prevention. Type 1 diabetes is an important clinical burden worldwide, exemplified by its cost to the UK economy of £1.9 billion/year. The UK has ~400,000 patients (>50% diagnosed as children) and the world’s 5th highest incidence, still predicted to rise annually by 2-3%. Beyond being a life-changing diagnosis, the disease carries a burden of chronic illness (renal failure, loss of sight, heart disease) and early mortality (average 11-year reduction in life-expectancy). We believe that the immune system is responsible for destroying the cells that make insulin (a vital hormone) leaving patients with poor blood glucose control that is only partially rectified by insulin injections. We aim to get a better understanding of the parts of the immune system that are involved and try to find ways to divert or prevent the damaging response. Our approach includes studying the immune system of patients and subjects at risk and we are also developing new peptide-based drugs that we hope will suppress the response against insulin-producing cells.