A landmark Australian study investigating factors involved in islet autoimmunity has been awarded $8.25 million to continue follow up of 1500 female participants and their offspring.
The multicentre Environmental Determinants of Islet Autoimmunity (ENDIA) study has received the funding from JDRF Australia and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
Led by Professor Jenny Couper from the University of Adelaide, ENDIA is the first study worldwide to recruit from pregnancy and follow babies into childhood to find the causes of type 1 diabetes. With the recruitment of 1500 participants completed at the end of last year, the new funding will be used to continue the follow-up of this cohort for a further three years.
The ENDIA team is investigating environmental exposures and gene-environment interactions that may contribute to the development of islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes in at-risk children.
Factors evaluated include the microbiome, nutrition, bodyweight/composition, metabolome-lipidome, insulin resistance, innate and adaptive immune function and viral infections.
“Our research so far has found many viruses are very common in women during pregnancy and infants who are at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The ENDIA Study results may move the world towards developing a viral vaccine to prevent type 1 diabetes,” said co-investigator Professor Rawlinson from the University of NSW.
Another UNSW co-investigator Professor Marie Craig said the incidence of T1D is increasing worldwide, particularly in younger children and those with lower genetic susceptibility, suggesting that factors in the modern environment promote pancreatic islet autoimmunity and destruction of insulin-producing beta cells.
“Despite the discovery of insulin 99 years ago, we still cannot prevent or cure this disease. ENDIA is an amazing opportunity for new approaches to understanding and preventing further children from developing this condition.”
She said longitudinal studies, such as ENDIA, take a long time to recruit and follow up participants before making critical research findings. They therefore require significant and ongoing funding to be able to continue. It took the ENDIA Study seven years to recruit its 1500 participants.