3U Diabetes Conference

3U Partnership’s Third Annual Diabetes Conference

Current Challenges in Diabetes Research

Type 1 diabetes in children is increasing in Ireland

The commonest form of diabetes in children, type 1 diabetes, is increasing in prevalence in Ireland and in most countries around the world.  Renowned diabetes expert, Professor Mikael Knip from the University of Helsinki in Finland, the country with the highest prevalence of type 1 diabetes in the world, will address this issue at the Third Annual 3U Partnership International Diabetes Conference entitled ‘Current Challenges in Diabetes Research’ which takes place at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) in Dublin today. The conference will hear about potential factors, including certain viruses and altered intestinal gut bacteria, which may trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Researchers from the United States, Canada, Finland, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Ireland will gather to address the conference which will focus on hot topics in research into both type-1 and type-2 diabetes. Diabetes is one of the commonest chronic diseases in Ireland affecting an estimated 4-5% of the population.

Professor Knip who will present his current research into the prevention of type 1 diabetes at the conference today said: “To be able to prevent any condition we need to be able to identify those at risk of developing it and have an effective intervention to either delay or prevent its onset. We believe that type 1 diabetes develops in genetically predisposed individuals when certain non-inherited or ‘environmental’ factors or ‘triggers’ are present. We know that it is caused by a problem in the immune system which damages the insulin making cells in the pancreas. Family members of people with diabetes are at increased risk of developing the condition and the challenge is to be able to predict which relatives may go on to develop diabetes before the disease develops.  There is a phase prior to disease onset when the damage is developing in the pancreas but is not severe enough for the sugar levels to become uncontrolled.”

“Understanding what the trigger is that initiates the damage in the pancreas will be crucial to developing a treatment to prevent it.  Over the last 5 years, with Finnish and US colleagues, we have been able to identify potential triggers including enteroviruses and an altered intestinal bacterial flora which might be crucial and which may ultimately lead to a preventative intervention”  Professor Knip concluded.

Other talks at the meeting will focus on how the immune system damages the pancreas in type 1 diabetes; the importance of genetics in the development of diabetes and other metabolic diseases; and the complications in other organs that can result from the condition.

Diabetes is a priority research focus of the 3U Partnership, which brings together the academic strengths of Dublin City University, Maynooth University and RCSI to enhance education and research opportunities across the three partner institutions. The 3U Diabetes Consortium, comprising clinicians and scientists from the three institutions, is committed to developing cutting edge research into this chronic and costly disease in Ireland and aligns a number of interlinked areas of research into the condition extending from identifying and developing new molecules with therapeutic potential to providing world class diabetes care and treatments in the clinic.

The Director of 3U Diabetes, Dr Donal O’Gorman of the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU, commented: “We are very excited to be hosting a major conference looking at the challenges in diabetes research. With the increasing prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is very timely to bring together a range of experts from the world of diabetes to discuss how best to address the challenge of halting the rise in the condition and its burden on those who are living with it. The faculty attending the conference will include clinical and basic science researchers from across North America and Europe who will present and discuss their own research showing how this challenge can be met.”

Dr. Ruth Davis, Director of the 3U Partnership, who will open the meeting, said: “I am delighted to contribute to this event. It has become an important annual meeting in the calendar of the three partner institutions which will allow the consortium to develop important collaborative links with leading institutions in the world of diabetes research and which will contribute significantly to the evolution and sustainability of the 3U Partnership.”