Frances Ashcroft and Flemming Pociot spent their time interacting with researchers and attending presentations at the annual LUDC retreat in Helsingborg recently. In addition to praising the excellence of the centre’s research on type 2 diabetes, they also commended one of the presenters in the field of type 1 diabetes research, namely Åke Lernmark who is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Claude Bernard Prize. The Claude Bernard medal and lectureship is the European Association for the Study of Diabetes’ (EASD) highest award and recognises an individual's innovative leadership and lifetime achievements in diabetes research. Professor Åke Lernmark presented an overview of his research, spanning over half a century, including the etiology and development of type 1 diabetes.
“This was a wonderful talk by an outstanding researcher whose excellence is celebrated by the award of the Claude Bernard Prize. Åke Lernmark is a very important asset to researchers at the centre,” says Dame Frances Ashcroft, professor of physiology at the University Oxford.
Åke Lernmark’s research is focused on the role of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) and non-HLA genes in the etiology and development of type 1 diabetes, with a particular emphasis on uncovering the importance of diabetes-related autoantibodies.
Viruses and type 1 diabetes
This is also a research interest of LUDC researcher Helena Elding Larsson from the research group Pediatric Endocrinology. She gave a presentation about early risk factors for childhood type 1 diabetes and described ongoing studies at the centre that attempt to prevent the disease. Helena Elding Larsson is scientifically responsible for the Swedish part of the POInT study, where researchers are investigating if it is possible to stop the development of type 1 diabetes in children with genetic risk of developing the disease by giving them preventive oral insulin treatment.
Within this study, researchers are also investigating the relationship between diabetes-related autoantibodies and viruses. Helena Elding Larsson presented new data from POInT that supports the theory that certain viral infections are of importance in the development of type 1 diabetes. The research team has discovered that children with an increased genetic risk of type 1 diabetes had an increased risk of developing diabetes-related autoantibodies in connection with Covid-19-infection.
“Research on the relationship between certain viruses and the development of type 1 diabetes is very important. If researchers can present strong evidence that viruses can be a trigger of type 1 diabetes, we may also be able to vaccinate children at risk against certain viruses to prevent the disease. This would be a major step forward, so it’s important that LUDC continues to support this kind of research,” says Flemming Pociot, professor of endocrinology at the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and University of Copenhagen.