Strategic Research Centre: Diabetes

Investigating the occurrence of diabetes in people with cystic fibrosis (CF).


Cystic fibrosis related diabetes (CFRD) is a type of diabetes unique to people living with cystic fibrosis, but its cause remains unclear. This study aims to find out how the defective CFTR gene present in people with cystic fibrosis contributes to abnormalities in regulating insulin levels – the issue that can cause the development of CFRD.

In the human body, the pancreas controls the breakdown and digestion of food and secretes several hormones (including insulin), which regulate blood sugar levels. Notably, people living with cystic fibrosis have poor pancreatic function and many develop diabetes (approximately 50% of adults with cystic fibrosis have diabetes).

How it will work

Led by Professor James Shaw at Newcastle University (a specialist in regenerative medicine for diabetes), this Strategic Research Centre (SRC) aims to uncover the causes of cystic fibrosis related diabetes (CFRD) by bringing together CF and diabetes researchers based throughout the UK, Europe and the USA. 

This study aims to establish how the genetic defects responsible for cystic fibrosis increase blood sugar levels, a first step in understanding the development of CFRD. Using this knowledge, the study hopes to be able to discover ways to prevent the development of diabetes in people with cystic fibrosis, increasing life expectancy and helping them to live lives unlimited by their condition.

What are the aims?

The study has the following aims in order to better understand diabetes in people with cystic fibrosis:

  • to determine the role of CFTR, and the effect of the CFTR mutation, in the pancreas' islet development and signalling;
  • to investigate the role of exocrine-driven β-cell de-differentiation in CFRD; and
  • to establish the role of exocrine inflammation in endocrine dysfunction in vivo.

Who is involved?

Lead Principal Investigator (PI): James Shaw (Newcastle University)


  • Dr Mike Gray (Newcastle University)
  • Dr Catriona Kelly (Ulster University)
  • Professor Neville McClenaghan (Ulster University) 
  • Dr Lena Eliasson (Lund University, Sweden) 
  • Dr Malin Flodström-Tullberg (Karolinksa, Sweden) 
  • Professor Peter Hegyi (Szeged University, Hungary)
  • Dr Viktoria Venglovecz (Szeged University, Hungary) 
  • Professor John Engelhardt (Iowa University, USA)

Research update

 In June 2020 we published a Research in focus report on CF-related diabetes. The report explains the impact CF-related diabetes has on the lives of people with CF, what we’ve learnt from funding this SRC, and how a new Strategic Research Centre on How CF exocrine pancreatic disease may lead to CF-related diabetes could pave the way for insulin-injection free treatments in the future.

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