Bringing together our supporters and scientists: A Type 1 diabetes lab tour – by Faye Riley

We’ve been funding diabetes research for over 80 years and our scientists have transformed the lives of millions of people with diabetes. But there’s still so much more we need to do to build a world where diabetes can do no harm.

Professor Noel Morgan is just one of our scientists who’s leading the way in building the knowledge we need to tackle diabetes. His pioneering work, and all the vital research we fund, wouldn’t be possible without our supporters.

To say an enormous thank you to some of our incredible fundraisers, we took them to the University of Exeter to explore Noel’s lab and see exactly where their donations go.

Inside a diabetes research lab: watch the action from the day in our video.

Noel’s team are taking on one of the biggest questions: how and why does Type 1 diabetes develop? They’re studying the immune attack in precise detail, with the hope of being able to slow or stop Type 1 diabetes in the future.

Here, I catch-up with some of those who made the lab tour so special – our researcher, our supporter and our area fundraising manager.

Dr Pia Leete is a researcher at the University of Exeter

“I feel incredibly lucky to work in research. You sit right at the edge of what is known, and what is yet to be known. I love asking questions and having to be deeply, and ever more, creative about how to discover the answers to them!

Maybe more importantly, I also love being a part of something bigger and working to have ideas worth fighting for, which one day might play a part in improving the outlook for people with diabetes. Wouldn’t that be magic?

Currently, I’m looking at the immune invasion of the pancreas in people with Type 1 diabetes. I study a small elite squadron of cells which are found in the pancreas. What their hierarchy is, and how they communicate with each other, is my current conundrum.

I was recently able to share this research when we hosted a lab tour for Diabetes UK fundraisers, many of whom live with Type 1 diabetes.

The research team at the Islet Cell Biology lab, University of Exeter

It was the most amazing day! I came to work imagining that I would be doing something of professional importance on behalf of the University, but what happened is, I spent the day with people who also care deeply about the work we do. Everyone was gorgeous – engaged, curious and open – and really committed to the cause.

Our team, with our various passions and specialities, were privileged enough to be able to share our interests, our dedication and what drives us to spend most of our waking hours studying, and thinking about Type 1 diabetes.

Over the course of the day these strangers, rather amazingly, felt like they became friends. And I know I’m not alone in this – the whole team were all profoundly moved by some of the people we met.

I came away from the day richer, brighter and even more committed to making a difference for people with diabetes.”

Shane lives with Type 1 diabetes and has fundraised over £75,000 towards our research

“The lab tour was a truly brilliant insight into the research process and it was fascinating to see all the different areas and equipment in the lab.

The researchers I met were amazing people. I could have talked to them all day, asking them a million questions. I was blown away by just how passionate the team were and how hard they work to find out more about diabetes.

I left feeling more confident about the future of diabetes care; knowing how research, and the inspiring people who do it, could make such a big difference to our lives and one day even find a cure.”

Louise is our Area Fundraising Manager for the South West, Wales and Midlands

“It was a real privilege to give some our supporters, who go to great lengths to fundraise for Diabetes UK, the opportunity to see exactly how their donations help.

As we were shown around the lab, it became very apparent that this is more than just a job to the researchers; it’s a burning passion to find answers and discover things that quite literally could change millions of people’s lives. I’ve never seen a group of people get so excited over a picture of a cell!

On my travels home that day, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we should have hope. And lots of it, because research will allow us to continue making progress and transforming the lives of people living with diabetes.

This is why it’s so crucial we continue funding research. The reality of what could be achieved through research is phenomenal and global. And to witness our supporters shedding tears over this prospect during the tour was eye-opening for me.

Research may often take place in a very clinical environment but the outcomes of it are absolutely human and personal.”

If you’re inspired to support our work, find out about ways you can get involved in fundraising and help us push ahead with our life-changing research.

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