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Scientists create Australia’s first diabetes stem cells

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In a major research advance, Melbourne researchers have created Australia's first type 1 diabetes stem cells.

Researchers from the Monash Institute of Medical Research created the diabetes cells using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology; a method of generating cells with stem‐cell like properties.

"The cell lines we have generated are an ideal model for understanding how type 1 diabetes develops and progresses. The cells will also be a key tool for testing new drugs that may potentially treat the disease," said Project Leader, Dr Paul Verma.

More than 120,000 Australians are living with type 1, or juvenile, diabetes. More than 2100 Australians are diagnosed each year. The majority of new patients are children aged under 14.1

Professor Helena Teede, a Director of Diabetes Australia (Victoria) and Head of Diabetes at Southern Health, said it was important to embrace emerging research technologies.

"Research such as this gives us the capacity to extend our knowledge beyond conventional research approaches. The potential to answer vital clinical questions in diabetes prevention and management is significant," she said.

Dr Verma's team used skin cells from patients with type 1 diabetes to create the iPS cells. These cells were then 'reprogrammed' to behave as embryonic stem cells; however, no embryos or eggs were used.

"iPS cells are ideal to model human disease and to test potential treatments," said Dr Verma, "However, further studies are needed to determine whether they are a preferable alternative to working with embryonic stem cells."

Dr Verma's research was carried out in collaboration with Professor Bernie Tuch from Sydney University.

The project was funded through the Victorian Government and New South Wales Stem Cell Research Grant Program.

Media enquiries: Julie Jacobs, Media and Communications Manager: +61 3 9594 7109 / +61 429 119 038.

1 – Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (www.jdrf.org.au)