Clinical trials to begin for Type 1 diabetes dietary supplement

Dr Eliana Marino.

Clinical trials will soon begin on a possible treatment for Type 1 diabetes. Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s (BDI) Dr Eliana Marino leads a team of researchers exploring the efficacy of a modified starch in established patients with type 1 diabetes. The starch is high in amylose, which resists digestion, and on contact with gut bacteria, produces short-chain fatty acids.

Previous research from Dr Marino and Professor Charles Mackay has shown that diets promoting the production of the short-chain fatty acids acetate and butyrate stopped the progression of Type 1 diabetes in mice.

“Ninety per cent of the mice were protected from diabetes. They didn’t need insulin,” Dr Marino said.

The research group now aims to translate their findings to human Type 1 diabetes, with clinical trials beginning in August 2018. The carefully selected adult trial participants will be given a small quantity of the modified starch supplement to sprinkle on their food twice a day.

For the more than 120,000 Australians with Type 1 diabetes, their immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The trial aims to reprogram the immune system.

“We’re aiming to halt the immune system attacking the cells in the pancreas,” Dr Marino said.

The dietary supplement could stop the progress of Type 1 diabetes in people with early stages of the disease, and aid in management of the disease in people with advanced cases.

“So far, significant progress has been made in the field of Type 1 diabetes research,” Dr Marino said.

“This has created the basis for this program. Together, we’re working towards a sustainable solution to tack this public health issue in the long-term.”

Dr Marino and her trial team are members of a program established by JDRF to support emerging research leaders in Type 1 diabetes in Australia. It is supported by funding from the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative through the Australian Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network, administered by JDRF.

At a special event at Parliament in Canberra last week, Dr Eliana Marino and fellow program members, Dr Hamilton-Williams and Dr Sonia Saad, shared their success in securing funding to continue their research into the dietary supplement.

JDRF is the leading global organisation funding Type 1 diabetes research. The organisation identified the need to support early to mid-career researchers to ensure the momentum of Type 1 diabetes research continues into the future, in order to progress breakthroughs in the laboratory to breakthroughs for patients.