The Simeonovic Group - Diabetes/Transplantation Immunology

Diabetes/Transplantation Immunology

Prizes and awards

Ms Fui Jiun Choong, Young Investigator Award for her oral presentation entitled "The role of heparanase in the rejection of islet allografts" at the 2012 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand held in Canberra, 27-29 June 2012.

Dr Zuopeng Wu, Travel Award to present his poster entitled "Heparanase is indispensable for islet infiltration by autoreactive T cells in Type 1 diabetes" at the 2012 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Diabetes Society and the Australian Diabetes Educators Association, held at the Gold Coast, Qld, 29-31 August 2012.

Dr Andrew Ziolkowski, Poster prize for his poster entitled " Preventing beta cell demise in db/db mice with heparan sulfate mimetics" at the 5th Australian Islet Study Group 2012 meeting,held in Melbourne, 25 October, 2012.

Beating diabetes (PDF 495.65 KB) is the title of a new article by Professor Chris Parish and Dr Charmaine Simeonovic. It is featured in International Innovation which is the leading global dissemination resource for the wider scientific, technology and research communities, dedicated to disseminating the latest science, research and technological innovations on a global level. » more information & complimentary subscription

Our research focusses on:

  1. characterising immunological processes of pancreatic islet destruction, including the development of Type 1 diabetes and rejection of foreign islet transplants,
  2. protecting islet tissue from inflammatory damage without the use of immunosuppressive drugs and
  3. understanding the molecular requirements for the intrinsic survival of islet beta cells.

We found that mouse islets in situ are surrounded by a basement membrane (BM) containing heparan sulfate proteoglycan and that this islet BM component represents a critical target for immunological damage. This discovery has led to new and highly novel research initiatives attracting over 3 million dollars in external funding (2008-2012) and novel therapies for preventing T1D and the rejection of islet transplants.


Heparan sulfate (HS) is a glycosaminogycan (polysaccharide) found covalently attached to the protein core of heparan sufate proteoglycans. Our studies in the mouse have demonstrated that islets in the pancreas strongly express HS within the islet cell mass and in the islet basement membrane. During the development of Type 1 diabetes (T1D) in NOD/Lt mice, autoreactive lymphocytes completely destroy the islet basement membrane, invade the islets (destructive insulitis) and kill the insulin-producing islet beta cells. Our studies suggest that the initial critical trigger for these processes is the production by the insulitis lymphocytes of the endoglycosidase heparanase which degrades HS in the BM and within the islet cell mass. These molecular components also represent targets for damage during the rejection of islet transplants. Current studies are investigating how HS levels, heparanase activity and BM status impact on beta cell heath, destruction and disease.

Updated:  26 February 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, JCSMR/Page Contact:  Web Manager