July 19, 2023
Media Statement

Fresh West Australian research suggests a new medication helping people with type 2 diabetes may also help protect the health of people with type 1 diabetes.

A study completed by Dr Lakshini Herat and team, which was part funded by Diabetes Research WA and has just been published in iScience journal, shows Sotagliflozin helped reduce blood glucose levels in mice with type 1 diabetes.

“In addition to the metabolic benefits we saw, treatment with Sotagliflozin also provided protection to vital organs like the pancreas and kidneys, and decreased the activation of the sympathetic nervous system,” explained Dr Herat, from UWA’s School of Biomedical Sciences and the Dobney Hypertension Centre.

“Importantly, it also prevented deaths associated with diabetes in these mice.”

Sotagliflozin is one of a new class of ‘wonder drugs’ known as SGLT1/2 inhibitors because they suppress both the body’s SGLT1 and SGLT2 transport proteins. While SGLT2 is mostly limited to expression in the kidneys and the retina, SGLT1 is more widely distributed throughout the body.

“In earlier studies, our team found that inhibiting SGLT2 actually causes an increase in SGLT1, which minimises the positive impact of SGLT2 treatments,” said Dr Herat.

“While we need to investigate further, this research suggests inhibiting both of these transport proteins offers greater benefits, adding weight to the idea this could be a superior treatment approach in both type 1 and 2 diabetes.”

Dr Herat won a $60,000 grant for this work, which also involved colleagues Dr Vance Matthews and Professor Markus Schlaich, from Diabetes Research WA last year.

She was also the recipient of the charity’s 2010 Alex Cohen Diabetes Scholarship and in 2020 received a grant to look at the use of SGLT2 inhibitors in diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness.

Diabetes Research WA manager Dr Caitlin Fox-Harding said the organisation was proud to have supported this research.

“Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease as it can damage blood vessels and cells in the kidneys,” she said.

“This can mean people with diabetes have to undergo dialysis or receive kidney transplants, so there’s a real need for better treatment options.

“Diabetes Research WA is very pleased to have supported Dr Herat and her team’s search for fresh ways to tackle this health issue, thanks to our generous donors.”




Media contact: Natalie Caudle, m0407 984 435, natcaudle@gmail.com

Western Australia and one of the state’s leading medical researchers is set to play an exciting role
in a new national diabetes research initiative.

The Australian Centre for Accelerating Diabetes Innovation (ACADI) will be a virtual research centre
connecting research hubs from around Australia.

It will also link in with key industry partners and diabetes organisations to help develop new
treatments, technologies and behavioural interventions to meet the challenges of the diabetes

Diabetes Research WA, WA’s peak diabetes research funding group, is financially supporting work
being done as part of ACADI by the head of WA’s Centre for Diabetes Research, Emeritus
Professor Grant Morahan.

Professor Morahan, who is also based at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, said his
project would focus on developing a genetic test which could predict which Australians with diabetes
were more at risk of developing diabetic kidney disease (DKD).

“DKD is the most frequent cause of kidney failure, leading to dialysis or kidney transplant, and is a
risk factor for cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death in diabetes,” explained Professor

“We will apply our world-first methods to develop a genetic test that can predict a person’s risk of

“A genetic test has the potential to diagnose risk status years before the onset of symptoms, and
those found to be at high risk of DKD could be managed more tightly, to delay or prevent diabetic
complications, improving their health and reducing healthcare costs.”

Diabetes Research WA executive director Sherl Westlund said the generosity of the group’s donors
over a long period had ensured Professor Morahan’s work could be supported.

“There’s a dire need for better ways to tackle the health complications of diabetes and we are very
proud to be backing this powerful research project,” said Ms Westlund.

The Federal Government has contributed $10 million over 4 years to help set up ACADI.

There were 463 million adults living with diabetes in 2019 globally, the majority with type 2.

Media contact: Natalie Caudle, 0407 984 435, natalie@capturemedia.com.au

A ground-breaking project helping to better screen for and manage gestational diabetes in rural Western Australia, which Diabetes Research WA has financially supported, has received a $3.2
million boost.

Led by Professor Julia Marley from The University of Western Australia’s Medical School and the Rural Clinical School of WA, the ORCHID Study – which aims to simplify screening and improve management of high blood glucose levels in pregnancy – has been awarded the fresh funding from the Medical Research Future Fund.

In welcoming the financial boost, Professor Marley said diabetes disproportionately impacted the lives of Aboriginal people, with predisposition beginning in pregnancy.

“Hyperglycaemia or high blood glucose in pregnancy increases babies’ risk of birth defects and being born premature and by caesarean, as well as being born larger or smaller than optimum, with low blood glucose levels, and difficulty breathing,” Professor Marley said.

“Babies have increased risk for obesity and altered glucose metabolism in childhood and for future diabetes, and mothers have increased risk for future diabetes and cardiovascular disease – it is a significant and far-reaching health issue, particularly affecting remote and rural communities.”

Ms Erica Spry, Bardi Jawi traditional owner and co-lead from the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services and the Rural Clinical School of WA, said the new funding would allow the project to implement, evaluate and refine the alternative screening that earlier phases of this study identified for detecting high blood glucose in pregnancy at regional, state and national levels.

“The ORCHID Study is to benefit all ethnicities, especially our Aboriginal women, and it is important to acknowledge all the women across WA who have participated in the ORCHID Study, we thank you all,” Ms Spry said.

“With this grant, we will begin sharing sugar management tools to help assist Aboriginal women with managing their high blood glucose levels in pregnancy and work on ways to support the family of the expecting mums. This funding will help us bring benefits back to our community members. As already proven effective, we’ll use three-way learning between Aboriginal community members, health providers and researchers to co-design and trial self-management strategies for high blood glucose in pregnancy. We want to help and assist empower Aboriginal women and their families to make positive lifestyle choices aimed at improving birth outcomes and health for subsequent pregnancies and prevent or delay progression to chronic disease.”

Diabetes Research WA executive director Sherl Westlund said she was thrilled the group had been able to support the work, with a $60,000 grant in 2020, to get to this point.

“As a charity, we’re focused on ensuring promising West Australian diabetes research can be funded so that it can progress to making a real difference on the lives of those who live with diabetes and this project is a wonderful example of that,” she said.

“We look forward to watching the ORCHID Study’s further positive impacts unfold with this fresh funding boost and are thrilled to be part of it.”

The Medical Research Future Fund is a $20 billion long-term investment supporting Australian health and medical research. The fund aims to transform health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability.

The ORCHID Study is a collaboration between the Rural Clinical School of WA, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services and their member services, Diabetes WA, WA Country Health Services and Diabetes Research WA.

Media contact: Natalie Caudle, 0407 984 435, natalie@capturemedia.com.au