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Research funding

JDRF and Medical Research Council co-fund new research into type 1 diabetes treatments

Daniel Doherty has received the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Research Training Fellowship, which will be co-funded by JDRF for the first time.
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Mary-Liz McGrath 9 December 2022

Dan Doherty in the lab

What is the Clinical Research Training Fellowship?

The award funds registered healthcare professionals to complete a PhD. The scheme is available for projects focusing on many different conditions, making it incredibly competitive. A type 1 healthcare professional receiving this fellowship will help raise the profile of type 1 diabetes research and JDRF amongst researchers, healthcare professionals and government funders. We hope this will attract new funding and researchers to the field of type 1 diabetes research.

Thanks to this funding, Daniel Doherty will complete his PhD at the University of Manchester over the next three years. His project will focus on improving the outcome of islet transplants for people with type 1. His goal is for islet transplants to work better, for longer, so they can help more people with type 1.

What is an islet transplant?

Islets are clusters of cells in the pancreas, which contain the insulin-producing beta cells that are destroyed in type 1 diabetes.

Daniel Doherty said: “An islet transplant takes the insulin-producing cells from an organ donor’s pancreas and places them into a recipient experiencing severe type 1 diabetes. It has the potential to free patients from taking insulin.”

Limitations of islet transplants

Islet transplants can help people with type 1 who struggle with their glucose control, but they are far from perfect. Daniel Doherty said: “At the moment islet transplantation is only available for a small group of patients as the transplants gradually decline in function and recipients need two or three transplants, limiting the total number of recipients that can benefit from the procedure.

“I am investigating how the locations that transplants are placed into interact with the insulin producing cells to see how we can make them survive longer, control blood sugar better and make it available for more people with type 1.”

Understanding the islets’ surroundings

Daniel will start his PhD by learning more about islets and their neighbouring cells. Islets are usually found in the pancreas, but they are transplanted into the liver because it is much easier to get to than the pancreas. Daniel will investigate why many islets don’t survive in the liver and how he could improve this.

To do this, Daniel will look closely at islets in pancreas samples donated by people without type 1. He will also figure out what types of cells are present after the islets have been separated from the rest of the pancreas. Finally, he will compare both findings with the cells that surround the islets when they reach the liver. This will help him understand how the islets interact with neighbouring cells to help them function.

Improving transplants to treat type 1

Daniel hopes to use this information to create a more supportive environment for islet cells in the liver. Through this, he aims to get more islets to survive the transplant so that the people with type 1 who receive them can produce insulin more effectively.

How will this help people with type 1?

This research will help limit the number of repeat islet transplants required, making them available for more people with type 1.

Find out more

To explain his research in more detail, Daniel created this short video, which you can watch below.