For the 140,000 Australians with type 1 diabetes, life revolves around their illness - but that could be set to change.
Melbourne researchers are behind a breakthrough discovery that could one day lead to a cure of the auto-immune disease.
Commonly diagnosed during childhood, type 1 diabetes causes immune cells to mistakenly attack insulin-producing islet cells, preventing the body from processing sugar properly.
Patients must closely monitor their blood sugar levels through insulin, but a recent scientific breakthrough hopes to bring an end to insulin injections.
Immunologist Stuart Mannering said the findings by his team at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research would most likely benefit a person with a high risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
“We think that this type of work will eventually lead to delaying the disease and eventually perhaps a cure,” he said.
Researchers have spent the past six years observing the insulin-producing cells from a pancreas of an 18-year-old who died from complications of the disease.
In a world first, they isolated those cells and monitored the interaction with the misbehaving immune cells.
“We're able to put these cells that recognise insulin right at the scene of the crime, right where the autoimmune response is happening,” Dr Mannering said.
“And with that information now we're in a much better position to delay or stop that process.”
Dr Mannering hopes the research will soon lead to clinical trials for the disease, which makes up about 10 per cent of all diabetes cases in Australia.