Talking with T1D Researchers: Highlights from IDS 2020

October 26, 2020

Every 18 months, the Immunology of Diabetes Society (IDS) Congress brings together the world’s brightest scientific minds to discuss the latest progress in understanding and treating T1D.    

This year’s virtual congress took place over 4 days in October, and featured presentations and discussions from a number of JDRF-funded Australian researchers at the top of their fields. We caught up with some of them to hear about what they’re working on and find out their most exciting takeaway from this year’s IDS congress. 

A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams, University of Queensland 

At IDS 2020, A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams was discussant for a series of talks on T1D and the gut microbiome (the unique combination of bacteria that live in a person’s gut). Researchers discussed the differences in the gut microbiome between those with and without T1D, as well as the potential to harness these differences to produce therapies to prevent T1D.  

A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams’ highlight
Prof Ranjeny Thomas, University of Queensland   

At this year’s IDS, Prof Thomas presented her work looking at T1D biomarkers – aspects of a person’s biology (like genes or molecules) that can be used to predict or monitor progress of a disease. Prof Thomas spoke about biomarkers that could be used to predict which people with islet autoantibodies are most likely to go on to develop T1D, and the immune therapies in development that could be used to intercept T1D at this stage.  

Prof Ranjeny Thomas’ highlight
Prof Philip O’Connell, Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Prof Philip O’Connell was discussant in a session on the latest progress in islet transplantation and stem cells, chaired by Prof Tom Kay from St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research. Researchers discussed new strategies to generate functioning islet cells from stem cells, and ways to optimise islet transplantation to prevent rejection – without the need for immunosuppressants.  

Prof Philip O’Connell’s highlight
 Prof Helen Thomas, St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research 

Prof Helen Thomas presented her work on a type of drug called JAK inhibitors, commonly used to treat inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Prof Thomas and her team at SVI in Melbourne have found that these drugs reverse T1D in mice, as well as affecting important processes in beta cells and immune cells. These insights have led to the development of a clinical trial, planned to start later this year, that will investigate the effects of JAK inhibitors in people with T1D for the first time.   

Prof Helen Thomas’ highlight

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