Disturbances in the bacteria resident in the human gut, the microbiota, have been implicated in the increasing incidence of autoimmune diseases, allergy and other chronic diseases. One such autoimmune disease is type 1 diabetes, caused by an immune cell attack on the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and often diagnosed in children. Here, I will discuss our latest research investigating how the gut microbiota, under the influence of early-life environmental factors, interacts with the gut and the pancreas to accelerate autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes. I will present the findings from our recent clinical trial using a prebiotic fibre supplement to target the gut microbiota in adults with type 1 diabetes to remodel the microbiota functional response as well as systemic immunity. This approach represents a safe and tolerable potential new therapy to aid treatment or delay type 1 diabetes.


 Associate Professor Emma Hamilton-Williams’ career focuses on understanding how immune tolerance is disrupted leading to the development of type 1 diabetes (T1D). She received her PhD from the Australian National University in 2001 and later trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. In 2012 she started a laboratory at the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute funded by a Career Development Fellowship from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and NHMRC grants. Currently an Associate Professor, her laboratory now focuses on understanding the role of the gut microbiota as a potential trigger or therapy for T1D as well as developing an antigen-specific immunotherapy for T1D. She recently conducted a clinical trial of a microbiome-targeting dietary supplement aimed at restoring a healthy microbiome and immune tolerance with the ultimate aim of preventing T1D. She uses state-of-the-art protein sequencing techniques to probe how disturbances in the gut microbiota impacts the function of the gut and the pancreas. Her laboratory is using nanoparticle technology to deliver an immunotherapy that specifically tolerises the immune cells that cause type 1 diabetes and is working towards a first-in -human trial of this approach.



About School research seminars

Seminars cover all aspects of chemistry and molecular biosciences and are delivered by visiting national and international academics. PhD completion seminars are also incorporated into the program.

Seminars are usually held in person and via zoom. All are welcome to attend.