Michael Christie

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has donated £50,000 to fund Diabetes UK research at the University of Lincoln, which could help lead to a therapy to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Each year more than 11,000 new cases of Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed, mainly in children. It occurs when the immune system destroys the body’s ability to make insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Currently it cannot be prevented or cured.

The new research, led by diabetes expert Dr Michael Christie from Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, involves testing a novel approach to target rogue cells of the immune system which destroy the cells that make insulin. If initial tests are successful, this approach could potentially undergo clinical trials within the next five years.

If successful, this therapy could be combined with other techniques to produce a safe and effective way to fight Type 1 diabetes, while leaving immune defences intact. A fully effective therapeutic strategy that blocks the immune responses which cause Type 1 diabetes would represent a huge breakthrough for diabetes care. It could be used to treat newly diagnosed patients but also help to prevent those at risk from developing it in the future.

Alasdair Rankin, Diabetes UK Director of Research, said, “We are immensely grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for their generous donation, which will help groundbreaking diabetes research to move forwards.

“This project and others like it could transform the lives of those at high risk or in the early stages of Type 1 diabetes by helping them to avoid a lifetime of painful finger prick tests and insulin injections. Managing diabetes is a daily struggle and too many people develop devastating health complications or die before their time. These studies will take us a step towards changing that and bring us closer to our ultimate goal of a cure.”

Dr Michael Christie, Reader in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “Recent research, particularly that supported by Diabetes UK, has improved our understanding of the causes of Type 1 diabetes to the extent that we are now in a position to test potential therapies that very specifically block the immune responses causing disease without affecting the body’s ability to clear infections.  My research group is very grateful for the support of The Freemason’s Grand Charity for our research to develop this new therapy, which we hope will become effective in changing the lives of those at risk of disease.”

Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, said: “Type 1 diabetes is an unavoidable condition with a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the UK alone. We are therefore very happy to support Diabetes UK with this interesting research project and look forward to seeing how it progresses.”