The main focus of our research is understanding the underlying causes of type 1 diabetes with a view to developing novel therapeutic approaches to treat or prevent disease. We have made important contributions to the understanding of how T cell tolerance is disturbed in type 1 diabetes and how environmental factors that may influence disease progression. Currently our lab focuses on three broad themes:

  1. The role of the gut microbiota as a potential risk factor for type 1 diabetes. We have pioneered the use of metaproteomics to understand host-microbiota interactions in type 1 diabetes. We are using this approach to uncover novel biomarkers associated with intestinal inflammation and disease progression in type 1 diabetes. We use network analysis to invesitagte how the gut microbiota, host and gut viruses interact before the onset of disease. We are studying cohorts of at-risk children to investigate which environmental factors linked to the gut may be precede the onset and predict future progression to type 1 diabetes.
  2. Gut microbiota targeted therapies for type 1 diabetes. We are investigating different nutritional supplements that can target the gut microbiota as potential therapies to prevent or improve disease management of type 1 diabetes. Using humanised models, we are investigating the specific gut bacteria and their metabolites that can reduce the autoreactive immune response and delay the development of diabetes.
  3. Antigen-specific immunotherapy to prevent or treat type 1 diabetes. Liposomes are a safe and tailorable vehicle to deliver immune-modulating drugs and antigen in order to induce tolerance in type-1-diabetes-specific T cells. Our current work is optimising this approach in order to maximise disease protection from our liposome-based immunotherapy. We have found that this approach is able to induce a regulatory immune response able to suppress islet-specific T cell responses and disease progression. This approach is being translated for human use with the first clinical trial planning in progress.

Our current research projects are:

  1. Environmental drivers leading to type 1 diabetes – this project investigates how the gut microbiota, gut metaproteome and gut virome interact during early life in those at risk of type 1 diabetes and whether this predicts the development of islet autoimmunity.
  2. Microbiota targeted dietary supplementation to prevent or treat type 1 diabetes. In collaboration with the ‘TOGeTHER’ trial consortium, we are investigating whether a dietary supplement that releases microbial metabolites is a potential therapy for type 1 diabetes.
  3. Development of an antigen-specific immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes. This project aims to optimise a liposome based therapy by understanding the immunological principles governing epitope selection and targeted delivery for tolerance induction.

Student projects

The Hamilton-Williams lab is looking for students interested in studying the gut microbiome in type 1 diabetes. This project will have a strong emphasis on bioinformatics based approaches and network analysis to understand disease predictors.

Our research is proudly supported by Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Diabetes Australia, Children’s Hospital Foundation.

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Australia, CIA A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams. Influence of early life and maternal host-microbiota interactions on type 1 diabetes risk. 2021-2023 $432,502
  • NHMRC Ideas Grant (CIA A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams, CIB Prof Ranjeny Thomas, CIC Dr Mark Harris). Tolerising antigen-specific immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes. 2021-2023, $1,395,549
  • Children’s Hospital Foundation (PI Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams, Dr Mark Harris). A specialised dietary supplement for manipulating the gut microbiota to treat type 1 diabetes. 2020-2021: $300,000
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Australia (Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams, Prof Maria Craig, A/Prof Lutz Krause, Prof Jennifer Couper). Crosstalk between host and intestinal microorganisms in progression to islet autoimmunity. 2019-2021: US$900,000
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Australia (Dr Eliana Marino, Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams, Dr Kirstine Bell, Dr Sonia Saad). Specialized dietary intervention in human type 1 diabetes. 2018-2019, $350,000
  • Diabetes Australia Millennium Award (Dr. Emma Hamilton-Williams). Oral liposomes for antigen-specific immunotherapy of type 1 diabetes. 2018-2019, $150,000
  • Mary McConnel Award for Women in Paediatric Research, Children’s Hospital Foundation (Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams). Maintaining immune tolerance to prevent type 1 diabetes. 2018-2019: $50,000
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and The Helmsley Charitable Trust (Prof Ranjeny Thomas, Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams, Dr Mark Harris and Prof Hugh Reid) Preservation of pancreatic beta cells using antigen-specific tolerizing immunotherapy in children with type 1 diabetes. 2017-2020, US$1,276,000
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Career Development Award (PI Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams). A genetic link between gut microbial flora and T1D susceptibility. 2013-2019, US$750,0000
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (Prof Ranjeny Thomas and Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams). Antigen-specific peptide immunotherapy targeting dendritic cells in type 1 diabetes. 2015-2017, US$500,000
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Microbiome consortium collaborative award (Dr Danny Zipris, Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams). Host-microbial interactions in the gut that precede development of type 1 diabetes. 2014-2016, US$500,000
  • NHMRC Project Grant. Dr. E. Hamilton-Williams (CIA). A Novel Role for the IL-2 Pathway in type-1-diabetes. 2012-2016, $527,200