University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, along with partners, have been awarded $8.25 million to further a study titled The Environmental Determinants of Islet Autoimmunity (ENDIA).
The Type I Diabetes Problem
Type 1 diabetes in Australian children is twice as common as it was 20 years ago. The ENDIA team will investigate a number of environmental factors that are believed to contribute to the disease in children, including those that may protect against it. These factors include growth during pregnancy and early life, the method of delivery (natural birth versus caesarean section), the mother’s nutrition during pregnancy, infant feeding (breastfeeding and/or formula), the duration of breastfeeding and the child’s nutrition, the child’s immune system and when the child received vaccines and exposure to viruses during pregnancy and early life.
The ENDIA study is the first worldwide effort to recruit from pregnancy and follow babies into childhood to find the causes of type 1 diabetes. With the recruitment of 1,500 participants completed at the end of last year, the new funding will be used to continue the follow-up of this cohort for an additional three years. The ENDIA Study sees infants in the research cohort every three to six months until they are at least three years old. The youngest child in the study will be born in August, and the eldest is currently seven years old. Longitudinal studies, such as ENDIA, take a long time to recruit and follow up participants before making critical research findings. They require significant and ongoing funding to be able to continue. It took the ENDIA Study seven years to recruit its 1500 participants, reports the UNSW Sydney Newsroom.
UNSW Professor Bill Rawlinson, and colleague, Professor Maria Craig, also just received funding from JDRF Australia and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
Professor Rawlinson and the team are concerned about certain factors, such as environment and note, “This is an internationally unique study where multiple environmental factors, including viruses, will be tested. It gives us the opportunity for unparalleled understanding of how type 1 diabetes can arise and may be prevented in the future.”