The researchers from RMIT University and University of Sydney hope their detection kit could one day be used as a standard test for newborns, catching the disease in its earliest stages and enabling the development of treatments to delay or even prevent its onset.
Professor Vipul Bansal, Director of the Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility at RMIT, said the collaboration combined lab-on-a-chip technologies with a breakthrough discovery on insulin-producing beta cells.
“The detection kit we’re developing is cost-effective and simple to use, requiring no specialist technical knowledge or expensive analysis,” Bansal said.
“Being able to detect this disease well before it has a chance to progress would be life-changing for the 2400 Australians diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each year.”
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disorder that affects about 542,000 children around the world, with increasing numbers of adults also being diagnosed.
Beta cells are found in the pancreas and are the body’s only way of making insulin, the sugar-regulating hormone that people with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce.
The collaboration with RMIT builds on that breakthrough, with the aim of developing a point-of-care device to test for these biomarkers and produce results within minutes.
The sensor can reliably detect the presence of select biomarkers, changing colour if a particular molecule is present in the blood.
The next stage is working with the engineers at the Micro Nano Research Facility (MNRF) to expand the sensor’s capabilities and miniaturise it onto a microfluidic chip about the size of a postage stamp.
A microfluidic chip contains tiny channels and pumps that can precisely control fluid. While blood is notoriously difficult to handle in microfluidic systems, RMIT researchers have pioneered technology that avoids the need for special processing.
MNRF Director, Professor Arnan Mitchell, said the final result would be a simple and reliable tool for health professionals.
“The ultimate aim is to be able to slow or prevent the onset of Type 1 Diabetes. The test could also significantly boost the development of therapies to prevent or delay the disease.
The research is supported through over $AU1.2 million in funding from The Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust, one of the largest medical research-funding philanthropic trusts in the world.
The funding grant is administered by JDRF Australia, the nation’s the peak body supporting research into Type 1 Diabetes.
Source : RMIT University