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Michael Christie

Dr

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Research interests

Autoimmunity in Type 1 diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is the result of the destruction of insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells by a process in which autoimmune recognition of beta cell proteins is implicated. My research group has long-standing interests in the identification and characterisation of beta cell targets of the autoimmune response in Type 1 diabetes, with the view of developing strategies to identify individuals at risk for disease, and to apply antigen specific immune intervention to prevent disease progression in high-risk subjects. My group was the first to detect circulating autoantibodies to a tyrosine phosphatase-like protein, IA-2, in diabetic patients, and this antibody marker is now widely used for the prediction and diagnosis of disease. We have subsequently identified a region of the IA-2 molecule that is very commonly recognised by both ciirculating autoantibodies and T-cells in Type 1 diabetes. We are currently investigating the relationships between T- and B-cell responses to this and other regions of the IA-2 molecule, and the potential for this region to form the basis of antigen-specific vaccination protocols to prevent disease.

Development and function of pancreatic beta cells: IA-2 is a tyrosine phosphatase-like protein localised to secretory granules of pancreatic beta cells, as well as to secretory vesicles of a number of other neuroendocrine organs, including the pituitary. Our recent studies have shown that IA-2 is an important regulator of beta cell secretory granule content and insulin secretion. IA-2 is poorly expressed in fetal life, but is up-regulated after birth, in parallel with increases in islet insulin secretion in response to glucose. We are currently interested in understanding the changes in beta cell gene expression that occur during the functional maturation of pancreatic beta cells during their development, and the influences of hormones and environmental factors, particularly diet, on the development and function of the endocrine pancreas. These studies will aid our understanding of how early exposure to environmental factors can influence susceptibility to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Research interests (short)

Diabetes; autoimmunity; autoantigens; immunotherapy; pancreatic islet development and function

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

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