A new research centre has been set up in Australia to study the effects of diabetes on children.
Type 1 diabetes cases in children have doubled around the world leading to concerns about the significance of early childhood development in increasing risk factors later on.
Professor Jenny Couper from the Robinson Research Institute has been granted $2.5 million to set up the Adelaide-based Centre of Research Excellence to investigate the development of type 1 diabetes before and after birth.
Couper said the centre will be made up of clinicians and scientists from around Australia.
“We are following 1400 children across Australia, who have a degree relative with type 1 diabetes, from pregnancy through early childhood,” Prof Couper said.
“We will study the children’s genes and the environment that they’re exposed to - including nutrition, viral infections and the healthy bacteria that live in our bodies.”
Prof Couper believes understanding the modern environment is the key to finding out how to prevent potentially life-threatening complications associated with type 1 diabetes from occurring.
“We believe our environment has both harmful and protective effects which children are exposed to very early in life, perhaps even before they’re born,” she said.
“Our research is finding out how this is happening and what is happening at a molecular level to lead to type 1 diabetes.”
The institutions involved in the Centre for Research Excellence include University of Adelaide, Royal Melbourne Hospital, University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland, University of Western Australia and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.