Two leading Royal Adelaide Hospital doctors have combined their expertise to lead ground-breaking research into a new method of treating type 1 diabetes (T1D). Artificial skin that has been used to revolutionise treatment of burns patients globally, is now being trialed as a potential site to transplant specialised cells used in the treatment of T1D.

Toby Coates and John Greenwood

Professor Toby Coates, Director of Kidney and Pancreatic Islet Transplantation and Associate Professor John Greenwood AM, Director of the Burns Unit, are looking into the effectiveness of transplanting islet cells into artificial skin made of biodegradable polymer, rather than into the liver.

Professor Coates says, “Traditionally we transplant islet cells into the liver to help treat type 1 diabetes patients, however the harsh and unforgiving environment of the liver means that a large number of islet cells die during the process.

“The key component of this research is to modify and optimise the artificial skin to create a new site to transplant islet cells in people with type 1 diabetes.”

“Transplanting islets into the artificial skin instead of the liver is potentially a much safer procedure, which will reduce the total number of islets needed to transplant for diabetes and allow more people access to this life-changing transplant procedure.”

“This approach is now possible through the breakthrough in artificial skin technology pioneered by Associate Professor Greenwood, who was named the 2016 South Australian of the Year, which has changed the way burns are treated globally.”

JDRF has proudly contributed nearly $1 million to develop the new transplant procedure. One of JDRF’s key research goals is to develop safe and effective approaches to replace the loss of insulin-producing beta-cells and restore glucose control in people with T1D.

Mike Wilson, CEO and Managing Director of JDRF Australia says, “JDRF is excited to work with Professor Coates and his team to develop a novel scaffold device and implant procedure that allows long-term survival and function of insulin producing cells.”

“While existing approaches enable the transplant of beta-cells from pancreatic islets, there remains a need to develop new ways of increasing the survival and function of transplanted cells.  This novel approach has the potential to achieve that.”

Research trials will begin at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in August, with the doctors hopeful the treatment will be ready to be trialed on patients in the next two years.








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