Family drives his diabetes research
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.”
Prof Grant Morahan.