Credit: RMIT University

Credit: RMIT University

RMIT University collaborates for new technology in early detection of Type 1 diabetes

New technology for early detection of Type 1 diabetes is being developed by researchers. This technology will be able to accurately predict if a child is at risk of the chronic disease.

Around 542,000 children all over the world are affected with the Type 1 diabetes. An increasing number of adults are also being diagnosed with this lifelong autoimmune disorder. No early tests are available for this type of diabetes so by the time a diagnosis is made; about 70% of the critical insulin-producing cells have been destroyed.

According to the report released by the RMIT University, the technology being developed by RMIT scientists and engineers uses a microchip and sensor to detect markers in the blood that can identify the early loss of beta cells.

Researchers from the RMIT University and the University of Sydney are collaborating on the detection kit that can one day be used as a standard test for newborns. Early detection allows for treatments to be developed, thereby delaying or preventing its onset.

Director of the Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility at RMIT, Professor Vipul 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.”

He added, “The detection kit we’re developing is cost-effective and simple to use, requiring no specialist technical knowledge or expensive analysis.”

There are about 20 biomarkers in the blood that can accurately predict the health of beta cells. This was previously discovered by a team of researchers at the University of Sydney, which was led by Associate Professor Anand Hardikar.

Found in the pancreas, beta cells are the body’s only way of making insulin. Unfortunately, people suffering from Type 1 diabetes cannot produce this sugar-regulating hormone.

Building on that breakthrough, the aim of this collaboration is to develop a point-of-care device that would test for these biomarkers and produce results within minutes.

Scientists at RMIT’s Ian Potter NanoBiosensing Facility have already developed a proof-of-concept sensor coated with special nanoparticles, which can reliably detect the presence of select biomarkers. If a particular molecule is present in the blood, a change in colour would occur.

Micro Nano Research Facility (MNRF) engineers will help with expanding the sensor’s capabilities and miniaturise it onto a microfluidic chip about the size of a postage stamp.

MNRF Director Professor Arnan Mitchell said that the final result would be a simple and reliable tool for health professionals.

He shared, “The prototype we’re building will be able to analyse just a pin-prick of blood from a patient and provide a score that indicates the risk of Type 1 diabetes.”

He explained, “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.”

He added, “We know the separate components of the device work, so now the challenge is to bring the sensor and the chip together into one easy-to-use device.”

Over A$ 1.2 million in funding grant from The Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust is supporting the research. The funding grant is administered by JDRF Australia, the nation’s peak body supporting research into Type 1 Diabetes.

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