Career Development Awards

The T1DCRN is dedicated to building the next generation of research leaders, who will drive research progress and accelerate treatments and therapies for type 1 diabetes. The 2015 Career Development Awards (CDAs) was awarded to the best and brightest emerging scientists with innovative, cutting edge research ideas to help them establish themselves as independent, leading researchers in type 1 diabetes.For further information about this award, please visit our Career Development funding opportunities page.

Current Recipients

Associate Professor Melinda Coughlan, Baker Institute VIC

Mapping the mitochondrial signature of individuals with type 1 diabetes and nephropathy

Kidney disease is a serious complication of diabetes (known as diabetic nephropathy) and is the major cause of kidney failure in the western world. Unfortunately, current medicines used to treat persons with type 1 diabetes with kidney disease can only delay but do not prevent the progression to end stage kidney disease. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand the factors that trigger kidney damage in diabetes, and also to develop new medicines that can be applied early in the disease to stop the progression to end stage kidney disease. The mitochondria are parts of our cells that convert the food we eat into energy. They are known as the “power plants” of the cell and are damaged in diabetes. It is thought that these damaged mitochondria may lead to the onset of diabetic complications. Associate Professor Melinda Coughlan from Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute is a recipient of the JDRF Career Development Award and aims to investigate exactly how these power plants are damaged in the diabetic kidney. The ultimate aim of this study is to establish if mitochondrial health can be restored using new medicines that directly target mitochondria, which will then improve diabetic kidney disease, leading to new therapies for people with diabetes.More effective strategies to treat diabetic complications are urgently needed. This study has direct implications for the development of new medicines that could be designed to target specific diabetic complications. Since this process of mitochondrial structural and functional change occurs not only in the kidney, but may also occur in the eye (specifically the retina), the nerves, the heart and blood vessels, the findings from this study will be relevant not only for diabetic kidney disease but also for other diabetic complications including blindness and hardening of the arteries.

Associate Professor Anandwardhan Hardikar, University of Sydney NSW

PREDICT T1D: Plasma RNA evaluation and diagnosis in children progressing to type 1 diabetes

The incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing globally and is a major healthcare concern. Type 1 diabetes is characterised by high blood sugar levels due to loss of insulin-producing ("beta") cells in the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that controls the body’s carbohydrate, protein and blood fat metabolism. Death of these insulin-producing beta cells begins years before people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and at diagnosis usually over 70% of their beta cells are lost. We currently lack good tests to determine if and how much beta cell death is occurring, and to monitor treatments that are being tried to prevent or slow the development of type 1 diabetes. In addition, once diabetes is established, long-term high blood sugar levels and related disturbances in blood fats, proteins and blood vessel function can damage small and large blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, heart, legs and brain. This damage takes years, and we also currently lack good tests to monitor blood vessel damage and the effects of treatments. Previous JDRF funded research has identified a new genetic marker or “signature” in blood that may predict beta cell death and hence progression to type 1 diabetes. Associate Professor Anandwardhan Hardikar from the University of Sydney is a recipient of the JDRF Career Development Award and aims to verify this blood test panel or ‘signature’ in existent blood samples and related data collected from various groups of children at risk of type 1 diabetes at the time of type 1 diabetes diagnosis, including children of very different ethnic backgrounds. In addition, a set of markers or “signatures” of blood vessel damage in adults has been discovered and will also be verified as part of this study from samples of people with type 1 diabetes both with and without blood vessel complications. If the ideas and initial studies prove correct then test results will improve the early prediction of type 1 diabetes as well as the monitoring of treatment responses including islet transplantation, vaccines and disease-modifying drugs. The blood vessel related signature will also enable the early detection and monitoring of blood vessel damage and its response to treatments. We will develop our tests, if results merit it, to a commercial test so that these tools can be made available to researchers and clinicians globally, hence ultimately to people with or at risk of type 1 diabetes.

Mentored Clinician Researcher Fellowship

The T1DCRN encourages clinicians who are interested in research to receive high quality research training through our Mentored Clinician Researcher Fellowship (MCRF). The Fellowship provides salary support for one to two days per week of dedicated research time for a clinical research project, allowing active clinicians to take time away from their clinic duties. Recipients of the MCRF are mentored by a leading clinical researcher to develop research skills and assist them in establishing their research career in type 1 diabetes. For further information about this award, please visit our Career Development funding opportunities page.

Read about past MCRF recipients.

Current Recipient

Dr Vinutha Shetty, University of Western Australia WA

Guidelines to reduce hypoglycaemia and glucose excursions caused by exercise in young individuals with type 1 diabetes mellitus

Regular exercise has numerous health benefits for people with type 1 diabetes. Despite these benefits, many young people with type 1 diabetes find participating in exercise challenging, and these challenges can act as barriers to engaging in a physically active lifestyle. Barriers to exercise include the difficulty of maintaining normal blood glucose level during and after exercise and the fear of immediate and delayed hypoglycaemia, especially hypoglycaemia during sleep. Although there are many exercise guidelines, they are inadequate in consistently helping in preventing fluctuations in glucose levels and decreasing the fear of hypoglycaemia. This is due to lack of knowledge on the various factors that affect blood glucose levels during exercise. These gaps in knowledge related to exercising with T1D have been identified by our research team and we have completed studies designed to address these gaps. The gaps in knowledge are knowing the carbohydrate needs for different types of exercise done are different insulin levels, the effect of high glucose levels on exercise performance, guidelines for effective use of continuous glucose monitor during exercise and the role of sprint to prevent hypoglycaemia during exercise in free living conditions. Working together with the education and qualitative study team we have recently completed focus groups with adolescents with type 1 diabetes and their families as well as a survey where 72 adolescents were interviewed to determine the factors affecting adherence to exercise guidelines.

The lack of good educational resources for exercise advice and the inconsistency of messages from different health care professionals have resulted in lack of confidence in young people with diabetes about exercising safely. Due to the limitations of the existing exercise guidelines, the aim of my research proposal is to develop new guidelines that would include the recommendations listed in current guidelines and additional ones arising from the current studies from our group and others. We will have focus groups where patients with type 1 diabetes and their families will actively participate in developing the guidelines The second aim we propose is to conduct a clinical trial to test the new guidelines against the existing current guidelines. Finally the findings from these studies are only of benefit to patients if they can be translated into clinical practice. So our third aim is to include a group of consumers and translation group to inform us ways to translate these guidelines to clinical practice. These three objectives will be addressed in the proposed research program. The new exercise guidelines will be effective and user friendly since patients of type 1 diabetes will form the core in the development of new guidelines.

Dr Sarah Glastras, University of Sydney NSW

Urinary clusterin measured in early pregnancy may predict pre-eclampsia in women with type 1 diabetes

Preeclampsia can occur in the latter half of pregnancy when blood pressure becomes very high and the pregnant woman’s kidneys begin to leak protein. Preeclampsia can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby and sometimes the only option is to delivery the baby early, resulting in a premature delivery which can result in complications for the baby due to prematurity. Women with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have this complication of preeclampsia compared to women without diabetes. Some of the risk factors for preeclampsia in women with type 1 diabetes are known though it is still difficult to predict which women will develop this important complication in pregnancy. Therefore, this study will examine a new marker called clusterin that can be easily measured in the urine of pregnant women. We are hopeful that the level of clusterin may be useful in predicting which women are more likely to develop preeclampsia. Then, doctors may be able to offer women at high risk of preeclampsia options to prevent its development.

 

Photo: Dr Paul Benitez-Aguirre, 2013 recipient of the Mentored Clinical Researcher Fellowship