Fam­ily drives his di­a­betes re­search

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Health - By EMILY BAKER

IT is not just a love of sci­en­tific re­search that drives Pro­fes­sor Grant Mo­ra­han’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary work, but also fam­ily.

For the City Beach res­i­dent, this month marks 10 years at the Harry Perkins In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Re­search.

Over that time, he has made some sig­nif­i­cant re­search progress into types 1 and 2 di­a­betes.

“I think when you have a fam­ily your­self, you re­alise how emo­tional it is when a child is di­ag­nosed with type 1 di­a­betes, so that mo­ti­vated me in try­ing to help those fam­i­lies,” Prof Mo­ra­han said.

Prof Mo­ra­han started his ca­reer at Australia’s fore­most med­i­cal in­sti­tute, Wal­ter and El­iza Hall in Mel­bourne.

It was there he be­gan to make life-chang­ing break­throughs into au­toim­mune dis­eases.

“We were do­ing im­por­tant work look­ing at how the body reg­u­lates the im­mune re­sponse so it doesn’t attack its own tis­sues be­cause when it does, it causes dis­eases like type 1 di­a­betes, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis or arthri­tis,” Prof Mo­ra­han said.

“We were find­ing out why this would hap­pen.

“What I wanted to do was find out what genes were caus­ing this bad im­mune re­sponse.

“In those days this was very rev­o­lu­tion­ary and it was hard to get sup­port for this work be­cause many se­nior sci­en­tists thought there weren’t go­ing to be any genes for type 1 di­a­betes."

His big­gest sci­en­tific en­deav­our came when he was in­vited to the US to join a world­wide ef­fort in com­bat­ing type 1 di­a­betes.

“This was a huge ef­fort with over 4000 fam­i­lies from all over the world par­tic­i­pat­ing,” Prof Mo­ra­han said.

“The work cost over $30 mil­lion but at the end of that, we were able to iden­tify over 50 genes that con­trib­uted to a child de­vel­op­ing type 1 di­a­betes.

“This knowl­edge will be im­por­tant and will help other re­searchers to de­velop ways to pre­vent type 1 di­a­betes”.

Prof Mo­ra­han said the next step in his re­search was to find out ways those genes work and to try to turn them off.

“For us the next step is to be able to di­ag­nose risks and out­comes,” he said.

“What we are do­ing is us­ing our knowl­edge of the genes to de­velop ge­netic signatures to pre­dict who in a fam­ily is likely to get di­a­betes.”

Pic­ture: Matt Jelonek d432416

Prof Grant Mo­ra­han.

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