Garvan eNews November 2012
Research Update - A leap forward in the quest to develop an artificial pancreas
Research Update - How infection can trigger autoimmune disease
Research Update - When considering bariatric surgery think about bones
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A leap forward in the quest to develop an artificial pancreas
Garvan's A/Prof Jenny Gunton and Dr Nigel Greenwood, an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Queensland, have collaborated to test the prototype of an artificial pancreas. Should a planned clinical study and clinical trial support the excellent ‘simulated’ results obtained so far, this breakthrough could one day change the lives of millions of people.
People with Type 1 diabetes have insufficient levels of insulin producing cells in their pancreas, and must inject or infuse insulin several times a day to control their blood sugar levels. This is a very crude substitute for what the body does moment-by-moment when it senses blood sugar and automatically releases the right amount of insulin to control it.
Dr Greenwood, who is also an applied mathematician with a background in developing machine intelligence software for military aerospace projects and industrial robotics, developed the prototype.
“The technology we just tested is revolutionary for a whole lot of mathematical reasons – but the point is that it forecasts a completely new approach to programming insulin pumps, with the results from this preliminary grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation being extremely impressive.” says Dr Greenwood. He hopes to do a small clinical study next year and a clinical trial in 2014, aiming for the product to reach the market by 2016.
Read more on this complex and groundbreaking research.
How infection can trigger autoimmune disease
Garvan scientists have confirmed a ‘weak link’ in the immune system – identifying the exact conditions under which an infection can trigger an autoantibody response, a process not clearly understood until now.
We have known for many years that autoimmune diseases such as rheumatic fever can occur after the body makes immune responses against certain infectious micro-organisms, however, we have not been able to explain exactly how infection-driven autoimmunity occurs, nor why our bodies seem unable to prevent them.
Our immune cells, such as the antibody-creating B cells, go through processes when they are first formed that ensure they are able to identify our own bodies, and therefore avoid self-attack. These processes are generally reliable as they take place in a steady, regulated way.
However, sometimes the antibody created to fight the invader, or ‘antigen’, also happens to match ‘self’ and has the potential to cause autoimmune attack.
A/Prof Rob Brink (left) and Dr Tyani Chan (right) have demonstrated in mouse models that when antigen is abundant and generally available throughout the body, rogue autoantibody-generating B cells are deleted and autoimmunity avoided. Conversely, when target antigen is located only in a tissue or organ remote from the germinal centre (a special environment in the lymph system where high affinity antibody generation occurs), B cells capable of reacting against both antigen and ‘self’ are able to escape the germinal centre and produce autoantibodies.Their finding is published in the prestigious international journal Immunity.
"Our finding explains a lot about how autoimmune conditions that target particular organs such as the heart or nervous system could develop after an infection," says A/Prof Brink. Read More.
When considering bariatric surgery think about bones
Bariatric surgery, which significantly curtails the amount of food a person can eat, is the most effective treatment against obesity and is being recognized as a potentially valuable tool in the fight against diabetes related to obesity. It is being performed on increasing numbers of people worldwide, including teenagers.
Endocrinologists from Garvan, Dr Malgorzata Brzozowska and A/Prof Jackie Center, says that unfortunately, some types of bariatric surgery may also cause bone loss, a cause for concern, particularly when carried out on young people who have not yet reached their peak bone mass. They have just published a review of current literature in the journal Obesity Reviews, now online.
In particular, the review points out, we should be aware of surgery-induced changes in hormones that can affect the central regulation of appetite and bone strength. A/Prof Jackie Center believes that the findings are very important despite the widely held assumption that obese people are protected against bone fragility and fracture. Read More.
Thank you to everyone who supported Garvan's Public Seminar Series this year.
Click here to watch the latest Seminar on Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity online.
- Prof David James FAA
- Prof Lesley Campbell AM
- Prof Thomas Borody
- Prof Katherine Samaras
Register Now for the special 50th Anniversary Celebration Seminar
2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Garvan Institute, and we are proud to kick off next year with our first seminar looking back on 50 years of remarkable research and looking forward to what the future holds.
Garvan 50th Anniversary Celebration Seminar
Time: 10am - 12pm (Registrations open from 9:30 am)
Date: Thursday, 28 February 2012
Location: NAB Auditorium, Garvan Institute, 384 Victoria St, Darlinghurst (enter via Burton St)
You can also view a complete list of our 2013 Seminar Series and register online now.
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