Immune Development

Research area:  Stem cell biology

Using stem cells to study aspects of immune cell development, how these cells contribute to disease and how they might be manipulated to provide new medical treatments.

Our group uses human stem cells to understand human immunity and autoimmune diseases. Led by Professor Ed Stanley, the group has a special interest in diseases of the endocrine and immune systems. These areas apply to diseases such as type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys its own insulin-producing beta cells. Our lack of knowledge hinders our ability to treat diseases such as diabetes about how these diseases develop. Improving our understanding of what causes autoimmunity is critical for the development of new treatments and for disease prevention.

Insulin is the hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. Children with Type 1 diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin 3 or 4 times per day and must monitor the amount of sugar in their blood using a finger prick test. This treatment method has not changed in the last 100 hundred years. We desperately need new therapies in the area.  

How autoimmune disorders develop and why the immune system becomes overactive is poorly understood. Using induced pluripotent stem cells made from people with type 1 diabetes, we can create different human immune cells in the laboratory and observe their development and behaviour. This technology allows us to model autoimmunity and explore causes and cures.

The Immune Development Laboratory aims to better understand diseases such as type 1 diabetes, a disease commonly occurring during childhood, and for which current treatments are inadequate. This increased understanding will aid the development of new treatments and contribute to the goal of developing a cure for this lifelong condition.

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Professor Ed Stanley