New study identifies a potential path to a type 1 diabetes vaccine

Researchers believe they are another step closer to figuring out the triggers for the autoimmune response that can lead to type 1 diabetes - which could pave the way for a vaccine that could prevent the condition in people at high risk.

Professor Jenny Gunton from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research has discovered that the lack of specific protein in the pancreas, HIF-1A, could play a key role in the development of type 1 diabetes.

Professor Gunton says if beta cells are healthy then they normally recover after stresses like viral infections and type 1 diabetes doesn't develop, however if beta cells don't cope with these stresses it can trigger the immune process that leads to type 1 diabetes.

"We have now identified that HIF-1A is an important factor in this decision about whether the cells recover or die. This is the first beta cell specific model to show increased risk of type 1 diabetes with a range of triggers," Professor Gunton said.

Researchers hope this discovery could pave the way for a potential vaccine that could help prevent type 1 diabetes in people at higher risk.

Professor Gunton's research was proudly supported by the Diabetes Australia Research Program.