JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charityOur researchAbout our researchMeet our researchersMichael Christie – University of Lincoln

Michael Christie – University of Lincoln

Dr Michael Christie is based at the University of Lincoln, where he is researching the role of a a certain kind of immune cell in the onset of type 1 diabetes.

In order to develop treatments to prevent type 1 diabetes, we need to understand how exactly the autoimmune attack develops in the pancreas, and which immune cells are involved in the process that leads to the destruction of the beta cells. Dr Christie wants to understand the role that the immune system’s B cells play in the type 1 diabetes.

Headshot of Dr Michael Christie

How did you get involved in type 1 research?

After graduating with my first degree in Biochemistry, I was fortunate to join the labs of Philip Randle and Steve Ashcroft who had established a world-renowned centre for metabolic biochemistry at the University of Oxford. There I became fascinated in the way by which cells in the pancreas control the release of insulin and what goes wrong with the this regulation in diabetes.

Two great talks at a scientific conference I attended whilst at Oxford, one by Michael Bliss on “The Discovery of Insulin “ and the other by Gian Franco Bottazzo on “The Death of the Beta Cell: Homicide or Suicide”, attracted me to research into Type 1 diabetes and I was successful in obtaining a post doc position at the Hagedorn Research Laboratories in Copenhagen to find out what are the targets of the antibodies appearing in the blood of people with Type 1 diabetes.  This time in Denmark set me up for a research career in the prediction and prevention of type 1 diabetes.

Has JDRF’s support made a difference to your research?

Yes indeed! JDRF awarded me my first research grant, which helped me to establish myself as an independent scientist working in the field of Type 1 diabetes research.  Experiments undertaken by a JDRF-funded summer student in my lab then provided key data to show that there are several key targets of the destructive immune response that causes type 1 diabetes. The results of this short project set me on a longer search to discover the identity of these different targets, and gain an understanding of how this knowledge may be used to predict and prevent Type 1 diabetes, work that has been supported by grants from JDRF.

JDRF has also invited me to various fundraising and Discovery Day events that have been important to me as a non-clinician to have the opportunity to discuss my research with patients with diabetes and their families.

What keeps you motivated in your work as a scientist?

The excitement of making a new discovery or solving a scientific puzzle and the hope that in doing so, my research will move towards making a difference to people who are at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes.

What is your hope for your research in the future?

Our previous work has established a number of disease markers that in combination are effective in identifying people at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes.  Unfortunately, no effective treatment exists to prevent disease occurring in these people.  Disease prevention will be most effective if targeted specifically at those immune responses that cause the destruction of insulin-secreting cells.  My hope is that knowledge of the characteristics of immune cells infiltrating the pancreas in Type 1 diabetes that we will gain in this JDRF-funded project will lead to effective immunotherapy to prevent disease.

When not in the lab, how do you spend your free time?

I ring church bells, I enjoy walking and cycling, listening to music and most of all spending time with family.