A brief chat with A/Professor Emma Hamilton-Williams from the University of Queensland about the importance of diabetes research 9 June 2022 Why is diabetes research important? Diabetes research is critical to better understand this disease and how to stop it. I am particularly interested in type 1 diabetes, and we really don’t understand yet all the factors that increase the chance of getting this disease and therefore how to reverse it. But an even bigger problem is how to make life easier and reduce the chance of long-term complications in people who already have diabetes. The only way we can do this is by developing new approaches to manage and treat the disease. For type 1 diabetes, this will mean finding ways to preserve or replace beta cells together with re-training the immune system to stop attacking beta cells. Why did you get into diabetes research? I wanted to work on a human health problem that would have a tangible impact for real people. Then I started working on type 1 diabetes and found it more and more fascinating the more I studied it. How long have you been involved in diabetes research? I started in diabetes research at the beginning of my PhD (1996) and pretty much have stayed in this area for the majority of my career. What has been your greatest discovery or research to date? I am most excited about our recent clinical trial where we showed that we could use a dietary supplement to alter the gut microbiota and the immune system in adults with type 1 diabetes. We also showed that the microbiota features that changed after the diet were correlated with better glucose control. This study was a great proof of principle for the potential of this type of simple diet-based approach. It has opened up a whole array of future/ongoing new studies to move towards testing this earlier in disease to see if it can prevent type 1 diabetes or help slow the autoimmune process at the time of diagnosis. We are also aiming to test other diets and improve on what we first tested. What contribution would you like to make in the field of diabetes? I hope to find new ways to reprogram the autoimmune cells in type 1 diabetes so that they no longer attack the beta cells. This could be either through really specific vaccine-based approaches or through learning how to replicate natural protective factors in the environment like diet and a healthy gut microbiota. Who has been the greatest influence in your career? I would say my PhD supervisor Prof Robyn Slattery. She was a great example of how to balance work and the rest io life, as well as standing up for yourself and treating everyone with respect. If you weren’t a researcher, what would you do? Something to do with food – maybe a pastry chef.