Understanding how interferons are involved in autoimmune diabetes

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Medicine and Radiology
St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Tom Brodnicki tbrodnicki@svi.edu.au Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
A/Prof Helen Thomas hthomas@svi.edu.au Personal web page

Project Details

Type 1 diabetes is caused by T-cell-mediated destruction of the insulin- producing beta cells in the pancreatic islets. There is a significant gap in our knowledge of the events leading to initiation of autoimmune diabetes. Our preliminary data suggest that interferons (IFN) are essential in this process. There are three types of interferons: type I (IFNα/β), type II (IFNγ) and type III (IFNλ). Each interferon signals through a distinct receptor, but with overlapping signal transduction pathways. We know that IFNγ promotes beta cell-T cell interaction by upregulating MHC class I. Type I IFN stimulates a transcriptional signature in the islets. Type I IFN is also strongly implicated in other autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus.

Previous data suggest that interferons may have overlapping roles in the pathogenesis of diabetes. We have therefore generated mice lacking one, two or all three interferon receptors (IFNAR1, IFNGR1 and IL-28Ra) in non-obese diabetic mice using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. We will study the contribution of each type of interferon to gene expression changes in the islet, and to development of diabetes. This will be done using flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, quantitative RT PCR and by monitoring mice for diabetes development.

Inhibitors of interferon signalling are in clinical use for other diseases. To use these drugs effectively in patients, more needs to be known about when and how interferons act in autoimmune disease.

This project is conducted in St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, Islet Biology Unit

Research Publications

School Research Themes


Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Medicine and Radiology

Research Group / Unit / Centre

Islet Biology Unit

Research Node

St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research

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