Associate Professor Emma Hamilton-Williams

Principal Research Fellow

The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
Faculty of Medicine

Overview

Associate Professor Emma Hamilton-Williams’ career focuses on understanding how immune tolerance is disrupted leading to the development of type 1 diabetes. She received her PhD from the Australian National University in 2001 and later trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. Currently an Associate Professor at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, her laboratory now focuses on developing an immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes as well as understanding the role of the gut microbiota in as a potential trigger for type 1 diabetes. Her laboratory is using nanoparticle technology to deliver an immunotherapy that specifically tolerises the immune cells that cause type 1 diabetes and is working towards a first-in -human trial of this approach. She uses state-of-the-art protein sequencing techniques to probe how disturbances in the gut microbiota of children with type 1 diabetes impacts the function of the gut and the pancreas. She recently currently conducted a clinical trial of a microbiome-targeting dietary supplement aimed at restoring a healthy microbiome and immune tolerance with an ultimate aim of preventing type 1 diabetes.

Research Interests

  • Immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes
    The Hamilton-Williams lab is currently using liposomal nanoparticles to develop a vaccine to specifically 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 islet-specific T cells. Our current work is optimising the delivery route, frequency, antigen and adjunct therapies in order to maximise disease protection from our immunotherapy. This approach is being translated for human use with the first clinical trial planning in progress.
  • The gut microbiome as a trigger for type 1 diabetes
    Our second theme focuses on understanding disease pathogenesis in type 1 diabetes with a focus on the gut microbiota. We have pioneered the use of metaproteomics to understand host-microbiota interactions in type 1 diabetes. We hope to use this approach to uncover novel biomarkers associated with intestinal inflammation in type 1 diabetes and are now using this method to monitor therapeutic response in a gut microbiota targeted clinical trial. We are also studying the role of the gut microbiome and gut virome as potential triggers of type 1 diabetes and seek to develop clinical tests to predict future disease progression.
  • Gut-microbiota directed interventions for prevention of type 1 diabetes
    Type 1 diabetes incidence is rising due to changing environmental drivers such as the gut microbiota. We are investigating whether restoration of beneficial microbes is a potential preventative therapy for type 1 diabetes. We are investigating prebiotic diet based therapies and probiotic approaches to remodel the gut microbiota and restore immune tolerance to ultimately prevent type 1 diabetes.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Science with Honours, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University

Publications

  • Bell, Kirstine J., Saad, Sonia, Tillett, Bree J., McGuire, Helen M., Bordbar, Sara, Yap, Yu Anne, Nguyen, Long T., Wilkins, Marc R., Corley, Susan, Brodie, Shannon, Duong, Sussan, Wright, Courtney J., Twigg, Stephen, de St Groth, Barbara Fazekas, Harrison, Leonard C., Mackay, Charles R., Gurzov, Esteban N., Hamilton-Williams, Emma E. and Mariño, Eliana (2022). Metabolite-based dietary supplementation in human type 1 diabetes is associated with microbiota and immune modulation. Microbiome, 10 (1) 9, 9. doi: 10.1186/s40168-021-01193-9

  • Gavin, Patrick G., Mullaney, Jane A., Loo, Dorothy, Cao, Kim-Anh Lê, Gottlieb, Peter A., Hill, Michelle M., Zipris, Danny and Hamilton-Williams, Emma E. (2018). Intestinal metaproteomics reveals host-microbiota interactions in subjects at risk for Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 41 (10), 2178-2186. doi: 10.2337/dc18-0777

  • Mullaney, Jane A., Stephens, Juliette E., Costello, Mary-Ellen, Fong, Cai, Geeling, Brooke E., Gavin, Patrick G., Wright, Casey M., Spector, Timothy D., Brown, Matthew A. and Hamilton-Williams, Emma E. (2018). Type 1 diabetes susceptibility alleles are associated with distinct alterations in the gut microbiota. Microbiome, 6 (1) 35, 1-16. doi: 10.1186/s40168-018-0417-4

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Grants

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Supervision

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Available Projects

  • We are using human cohort and intervention studies with a multi-omic analysis approach to understand how the host and microbiota interact in the lead-up to disease onset. We are using germ-free mice colonized with human derived microbiota or individual species to study how changes in the gut flora of patients may modify the immune response and lead to disease. Finally, we are investigating novel prebiotic diets for disease prevention.

  • We are investigating the use of a liposome system for antigen-specific immunotherapy in type 1 diabetes. Our goal is to restore tolerance in autoreactive islet-specific T cells. We are using multi-dimensional profiling of antigen-specific T cells to optimize our immunotherapy strategy. We also use CRSIPR/Cas9 systems to study the molecular mediators of regulation induced during immunotherapy.

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Publications

Featured Publications

Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • We are using human cohort and intervention studies with a multi-omic analysis approach to understand how the host and microbiota interact in the lead-up to disease onset. We are using germ-free mice colonized with human derived microbiota or individual species to study how changes in the gut flora of patients may modify the immune response and lead to disease. Finally, we are investigating novel prebiotic diets for disease prevention.

  • We are investigating the use of a liposome system for antigen-specific immunotherapy in type 1 diabetes. Our goal is to restore tolerance in autoreactive islet-specific T cells. We are using multi-dimensional profiling of antigen-specific T cells to optimize our immunotherapy strategy. We also use CRSIPR/Cas9 systems to study the molecular mediators of regulation induced during immunotherapy.