Reducing complications in diabetes

This research is investigating whether lowering the intake of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) from the diet, or slowing their formation using drugs, can slow the onset of diabetes and its complications.

Head Researcher Professor Josephine Forbes
Team Members Advanced Glycation and Diabetes research group, Mater Research
Body Part Kidney, heart, pancreas 
Research Areas Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), Diet
Disease Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, kidney and heart disease
Institutions Mater Medical Research Institute – The University of Queensland (MMRI-UQ)

About the Project

The number of people living with diabetes has increased four-fold over the last five years with 422 million people affected globally. Over a million Australians have diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is increasing dramatically in both the developed and developing world due to changes in diet and increasing obesity. Type 1 or autoimmune diabetes is also increasing in incidence and currently affects around 120,000 Australians. Diabetes is the most costly disease economically to Australia without counting the personal cost to affected individuals and their families.

Despite a large number of drugs being employed to treat diabetes, the disease is often poorly controlled resulting in large numbers of people with kidney and heart disease, and other complications that are causing substantial morbidity and mortality and over-burdening healthcare systems across the globe.

Over the past 50 years, increased chemical and physical processing of food and altered cooking methods have led to an increase in the ingestion of food molecules modified in a process known as advanced glycation, producing advanced glycation end products or AGEs.

Professor Josephine Forbes’ research has revealed that AGEs can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes, increase in production within the body during diabetes and contribute to the complications of diabetes. Initially, the group has focussed on the role of AGEs in diabetic kidney and heart disease, the major causes of morbidity and mortality from diabetes.

The group’s studies in animal models of diabetes have suggested that lowering the intake of AGEs from the diet, or slowing their formation using drugs, can slow the onset of diabetes and its complications. They are now focussing on human studies to bring these AGE lowering strategies into the clinic.

Translational Research - Milestone T2

Negotiations are ongoing with several pharmaceutical industry partners regarding collaborative research and commercial development.

Preclinical studies and clinical trials are planned to further test the efficacy of AGE-blocking drugs for reducing complications in diabetes.

Ongoing studies elucidating the contribution of AGEs to the development of Type 1 diabetes could lead to the introduction of public health recommendations aimed at reducing the incidence of this form of diabetes. They are also seeking to further understand the mechanisms by which AGEs contribute to the complications of diabetes which could reveal new ways to reduce diabetic complications and may be targets for these AGE lowering drugs as well.

Mater Research is currently involved in a nationwide clinical trial, ENDIA, which is investigating environmental triggers, including AGEs, for Type 1 diabetes.

> For inquiries about research, potential research collaborations or postgraduate student opportunities, contact Prof Josephine Forbes email: [email protected] 

To inquire about how you could help support and advance this research, contact Mater Foundation at