DRC & Research News

This page shares the latest news in T1D research and DRC’s community.

Get the most recent diabetes research news, delivered straight to your inbox

Year End Review

2017 Year in Review

This past year has been a year of impact at the Diabetes Research Connection. With the generosity of our supporters, we funded five innovative, peer-reviewed type 1 diabetes (T1D) projects, bringing the total to 12. Our sponsored early-career scientists developed data to show beginnings of proof of principle concepts that in turn precipitated substantial additional grants. We also had two researchers publish their work in diabetes journals.

We’re committed to keeping our community updated on all projects and DRC happenings, so we wanted to take time to share all the amazing things that happened in 2017.

In January, Jeffrey Serrill, Ph.D. at the City of Hope in Los Angeles started off the year with his project, Determining How Other Cells (Non-Beta) In The Pancreas Affect Diabetes. This is the 13th research project to launch on our website.

In March, we funded our 8th project; Peter Thompson, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, Regrowth of Beta Cells with Small Molecule Therapy.

In April, we funded our 9th and 10th research projects; Joseph Lancman, Ph.D., at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Replacement Beta-Cells From An Unexpected Source and Agata Jurcyzk, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, What is the Connection Between T1D and Depression?

In May, our 11th project was funded; Gene-Specific Models and Therapies for Type 1 Diabetes, research being conducted by Jeremy Racine, Ph.D. of The Jackson Laboratory.

In June, we partnered with the diaTribe Foundation for the 2nd annual Brews & Blood Sugar event. More than 100 people joined us to sample beer from one of San Diego’s premier breweries, to learn how different varieties of beer affect blood sugar and support efforts to find solutions for those with diabetes.

In July, DRC funding precipitated a $1M grant for one of our researchers and his lab. Joseph Lancman, Ph.D., at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute was awarded $47,000 in funding by DRC to conduct his research project titled, Replacement Beta-Cells From An Unexpected Source. The results from this project enabled his lab to secure a $1M grant from the prestigious W.M. Keck Foundation. In the researcher’s own words, “The Diabetes Research Connection, like the Keck Foundation, plays a critical role in biomedical science by supporting innovative projects that most other funding sources consider high-risk. However, these high-risk projects have high-reward potential, essential for stemming next-generation technologies.”

Also in July, DRC spoke at the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference in Orlando, Florida. CC King, Ph.D., Todd Brusko, Ph.D., and David Baidal, M.D. presented on the current trends in T1D research and provided an update on contributions made by early-career scientists.

August was a busy month for us at DRC. Two of our researchers were published for their work in diabetes research. Support by DRC enabled Wendy Yang, Ph.D., to contribute to a major study published in Cell Report. In this study, the investigators discovered that alpha-catenin, a protein that regulates cell-cell interactions and communication is a potent regulator of pancreatic islet cell development. Click here to read the full article. In addition, Kristin Mussar, Ph.D., completed her project and found evidence that macrophages, a type of white cell usually associated with infection, also play an important role in the development of the islets, where insulin is made, just before and immediately after birth. The published report shows how macrophages help islets grow indicating that selected agents may activate the cascade of proteins enhancing islet growth, an important contribution for future treatments in T1D.

Also in August, we funded our 12th project; Yo Suzuki, Ph.D., at the J. Craig Venter Institute, Needles be Gone for Type One Diabetes Patients.

In September, we launched our 14th project; David Baidal, M.D., at the Diabetes Research Institute, The Omentum as an Alternative Islet Transplant Site.

In October, we launched our 15th and 16th research projects; Ningwen Tai, Ph.D., Yale University Diabetes Center, A Bacteria in the Gut May Predict Type 1 Diabetes and Jane Kim, M.D., at Rady Children’s Hospital and the University of California, San Diego, What Type of Type 1 Diabetes Does Your Child Have?

In November and in recognition of World Diabetes Day, we were honored to have Dr. Jane Kim’s project featured by Good Morning San Diego.

In December, we launched our 17th project; Tamara Oser, M.D., Penn State College of Medicine, Using Technology to Improve Diabetes Self-Management. We also had the world record holder for being the youngest person to cross America on foot visit us in San Diego on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Noah (11yrs old) started in Key West, FL on January 1, 2017, and finished on Saturday, December 9, 2017, in Blaine, WA, approximately 4,230 miles. Noah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) when he was 16 months old and has lived with insulin shots most of his life. We were grateful to share his story on Good Morning San Diego.

This past year was important for moving research forward and adding to the field of diabetes. We could not do what we do without the continued support of our community.





Learn More +

Stem-Cell Derived Therapy for Type 1 Diabetes Funded to Move Forward

Scientists have been exploring many options for treating and potentially curing type 1 diabetes (T1D) in recent years. From examining the role of gut cells to creating an artificial pancreas, the studies have been diverse. Some challenges that they have faced are undesirable side effects, short-term effects, the need for immune suppression, and continued destruction of insulin-producing cells.

However, Semma Therapeutics recently secured $114 million in Series B financing to move forward with a program using encapsulated stem cell-derived islets to treat and potentially cure T1D. This financing was made possible through investments from multiple partners and investors. It will be used to advance the stem-cell derived therapy through clinical proof-of-concept in patients.

The technology and processes used by Semma have the ability to create billions of insulin-producing beta cells that perform in the same way these cells do when naturally produced by the body. However, these cells are combined with an innovative cell delivery technology that protects them from being destroyed by the body’s immune system. Ideally, this would enable them to continue regulating blood sugar while reducing the risk of complications and the need for constant blood sugar monitoring and insulin injections.

According to Semma Therapeutics Founder and Board Observer Douglas Melton, “Semma’s scientists have very effectively dedicated themselves to systems that reliably generate cells indistinguishable from human pancreatic beta cells and to the invention of novel devices that are immunologically protective and surgically practical. We’re very encouraged and excited about the potential this program has for diabetic patients and their families.”

The Diabetes Research Connection is eager to see how this program could impact the lives of those living with T1D, as well as the progress and direction of treatment options moving forward. The Diabetes Research Connection is not connected to this project, but raises funds to support early career scientists in conducting novel research in preventing, treating, and curing T1D, as well as improving quality of life for individuals with the disease. Click to learn more about current projects and provide support.

Learn More +
Artificial Pancreas

How Technology is Changing Diabetes Care and Treatment

Despite years of research and clinical trials, no cure for type 1 diabetes exists yet. However, how the disease is managed and treated has changed, leading to vast improvements in quality of life. Many individuals are better able to track their blood sugar and administer insulin more effectively to reduce instances of hypoglycemia and other complications. A recent article explores how technology has impacted current research for type 1 diabetes.

For years, researchers were focused on developing immunotherapies to try to treat T1D at its source. With this type of diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells from the pancreas. The goal was to either reverse the disease or stop it from developing in the first place. Today, researchers have shifted their focus. Instead of trying to figure out how to prevent diabetes, some scientists are working to improve how patients live with the disease. This has involved major leaps in medicine including attempts at developing an artificial pancreas system that would function similar to the body’s own pancreas to regulate blood sugar.

Over the years, researchers have experimented with a variety of immune therapies trying to find an approach that could treat diabetes without a host of unpleasant side effects. This has been a difficult process and not yet produced a significantly effective treatment. However, there have continued to be technological advances that have improved how patients manage diabetes. It is easier than ever to quickly test blood sugar, and some patients even have continuous glucose monitors that send information to their smartphone and alert to low blood sugar. There have also been many improvements in more accurate dosing and administering insulin.

In 2016, scientists made progress toward creating an “artificial pancreas” system. It combined a continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump to modulate insulin delivery based on data over time. It is not yet fully automated, however, because patients still must calculate their insulin dosage during meal times. But it did have benefits for reducing hypoglycemia overnight. This technology has opened doors for others to begin testing different approaches for creating a fully automated insulin delivery artificial pancreas system. While not a “cure” for type 1 diabetes, it could help improve management of the disease while decreasing the burden on patients.

There is still a great deal of research and work to be done before this type of treatment comes to fruition. And once it exists, there is no guarantee that every patient would choose to use it, just like not all patients choose to have continuous glucose monitors. But it would be another option that exists and could potentially have a significant impact on people’s lives.

The Diabetes Research Connection recognizes the life-changing impact that a T1D diagnosis has, and supports early career scientists in moving forward with novel research projects focused on preventing, curing, or managing type 1 diabetes. Through donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations, research funding is made possible. Click to learn more about current projects and provide support.

Learn More +
Diabetes & Genes

Could There be More than two Types of Diabetes?

Could There be More than Two Types of Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that, according to common knowledge, is classified into two main types. However, recent studies suggest the potential for additional types of diabetes. This revelation could have a profound impact on how we perceive, treat, and prevent this pervasive disease.

Introduction to Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, leading to elevated levels of glucose in the blood.

Understanding the Known Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Also known as juvenile diabetes, this type occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It’s often diagnosed in children and young adults.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes, type 2, is characterized by insulin resistance. The body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or it resists insulin, causing sugar to build up in the blood instead of being used as energy.

The Potential for More Types of Diabetes

Is Type 3 Diabetes a Reality?

Recent research suggests a potential third type, sometimes referred to as Type 3c or Pancreatogenic diabetes, which is a consequence of pancreatic disease.

Gestational Diabetes: Another Type?

Pregnant women can develop gestational diabetes, which is technically another type. It usually disappears after pregnancy but may leave the woman with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

The Controversy Surrounding LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults)

LADA, often called type 1.5 diabetes, has characteristics of both type 1 and type 2. It is a slowly progressing form of autoimmune diabetes that can be mistakenly diagnosed as type 2 due to its late onset.

Recent Research on Diabetes Classification

The Finnish Study: Clustering Diabetes

A 2018 study in Finland and Sweden suggested that diabetes could be segregated into five clusters, each with different characteristics and risks of complications, a departure from the traditional type 1 and type 2 classification.

Implications of the Research on Type 3 Diabetes

The existence of additional diabetes types could dramatically change the future of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies. It could mean personalized medicine for diabetes, leading to more effective treatment plans and better patient outcomes.

Potential Impact on Treatment and Prevention

If these additional types of diabetes are accepted and integrated into medical practice, it could lead to significant shifts in how diabetes is managed and prevented. This could result in personalized care that better addresses the underlying causes of the disease for individual patients.


While the traditional classification of diabetes into two types has been widely accepted, research suggests there may be more to the story. Understanding these potential additional types could revolutionize diabetes care, offering hope for more effective treatments and preventative measures in the future.


  1. Are there more than two types of diabetes? Recent research suggests there could be additional types of diabetes beyond the commonly recognized Type 1 and Type 2.
  2. What is LADA? LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults), often called type 1.5 diabetes, has characteristics of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
  3. What is Type 3 diabetes? Type 3c, or Pancreatogenic diabetes, is a potential third type of diabetes that is a consequence of pancreatic disease.
  4. What is the Finnish study about diabetes? The Finnish study proposed that diabetes could be divided into five distinct clusters, each with different characteristics and risks of complications.
  5. What could be the impact of recognizing more types of diabetes? If more types are recognized, it could lead to personalized care that better addresses the underlying causes of the disease for individual patients.

As scientists and researchers develop a better understanding of diabetes, its forms, and how it impacts the body, it allows for more personalized treatment options. Individuals can find what works best for their specific type of diabetes and their body’s needs. The Diabetes Research Connection encourages and supports novel studies on type 1 diabetes to expand understanding and treatment approaches. Early career scientists receive up to $50,000 in funding for research projects. Click to learn more about current projects and provide support.

Learn More +

Could Blood Stem Cells Be Used to Reverse Type 1 Diabetes?

Researchers know that in individuals with type 1 diabetes, the body mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells that are used to regulate blood sugar levels. One of the challenges in treating T1D is finding a way to stop this process, or safely introducing new cells to take their place but protecting them from the body’s autoimmune response. This has proven difficult.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital may have found a way to overcome these challenges by combining the patient’s own blood cells with a healthy PD-L1 gene or a targeted molecule “cocktail” of interferon beta, interferon gamma, and polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid. Both of these approaches had the same effect.

Scientists found that the problem with current treatments involving immunotherapy or injecting patients with their own blood stem cells is that these cells are still defective in producing PD-L1, a protein that helps protect against T1D. By introducing a healthy PD-L1 gene (or the “cocktail”) in mice with diabetes, the disease was reversed. In nearly all of the mice, the diabetes was cured in the short term, and in one-third of the mice, these results were long-term. In addition, there were no adverse effects of the treatment.

The researchers are working on gaining approval for human trials to test this therapy, and partnering with Fate Therapeutics to create a pill that would introduce these healthier blood stem cells. More extensive testing is necessary to determine how long the treatment is effective and how frequently it would need to be re-administered. However, it is encouraging to see the initial reversal of T1D in mice and what that may mean in the future for humans with the disease.

The Diabetes Research Connection strives to help early career scientists continue advancing research and treatment options for type 1 diabetes. With the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations, novel research projects can receive up to $50,000 in funding. Learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Learn More +
Pills metformin

Potential Benefits of Incorporating Metformin in Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

Traditionally metformin is a drug used to help control blood sugar in individuals with type 2 diabetes. However, a recent study examined its effects in patients with type 1 diabetes. More specifically, the study looked at the impact on vascular health because individuals with T1D tend to be at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The researchers conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on 90 children in South Australia between the ages of 8 and 18 who had been diagnosed with T1D for at least six months. Half the of participants received metformin, and the other half received a placebo. A baseline vascular function was determined at the start of the trial and then tested at three, six, and 12 months. In addition, HbA1C, insulin dose, and BMI were also recorded at each visit. Throughout the trial, participants were asked about any side effects they may be experiencing so that therapy could be adjusted accordingly. Treatment compliance was also tracked.

The results showed that over the course of one year, vascular function improved in the metformin group compared to the control group. The difference was most noticeable at the three-month interval, and this is also when there was the greatest improvement in HbA1C levels for those in the metformin group. The difference was lower at the 12-month mark, but still significant. In addition, children in the metformin group also showed a decrease in the amount of insulin required over 12 months. Children with above-average BMIs who were taking metformin also showed improvement in vascular smooth muscle function. Overall, there were positive results for children with T1D taking metformin as compared to those receiving a placebo. However, the study was not continued long enough to determine potential changes in vascular structure, only vascular function.

With further testing, this could lead to more diverse treatment options for individuals with type 1 diabetes to help better control blood sugar and maintain a higher quality of life. It is these types of changes, as well as advancements in the treatment and prevention of T1D, that the Diabetes Research Connection aims to support. By funding novel research projects, the Diabetes Research Connection helps early career scientists to keep their work moving forward. Visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org to learn more.

Learn More +
Beta Cell

Treating Type 1 Diabetes with Synthetic Cells

Treating type 1 diabetes (T1D) takes careful planning and calculation. Individuals must test their blood to determine their blood glucose level, then calculate exactly how much insulin they need to inject. They must pay careful attention to what they eat and how their body responds. This is because, with type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells. In individuals without T1D, these beta cells automatically secrete insulin to keep blood glucose levels in check.

However, researchers from the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State are testing synthetic cells that could replace those cells that have been destroyed and automatically release insulin in response to the body’s needs. They have created “artificial beta cells” or AβCs that are packed with insulin-stuffed vesicles. When blood sugar rises, the coating of the artificial cells changes and insulin is released. The cells would need to be injected every few days, or can be delivered by a skin patch that is replaced regularly.

These AβCs are an advancement in potential treatments for T1D. There are some studies regarding transplanting cells – whether donor cells, modified cells, or harvested cells – but the challenge is that they often require some immune suppression, can be very expensive, and the body generally ends up destroying these cells as well. The synthetic cells would be regularly replaced with new AβCs as they distributed their insulin. Studies conducted in mice have found that blood glucose levels returned to normal levels within one hour and were maintained for up to five days.

According to John Buse, MD, PhD, the Verne S. Caviness Distinguished Professor at UNC, chief of the division of endocrinology, and director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center who is a co-author of the study, “There is still much work needed to optimize this artificial-cell approach before human studies are attempted, but these results so far are a remarkable, creative first step to a new way to solve the diabetes problem using chemical engineering as opposed to mechanical pumps or living transplants.”

While this approach is still in development and requires more extensive testing, it is a step in the right direction for improving quality of life for individuals with T1D and improving management of the disease.

The Diabetes Research Connection supports innovative research to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes, reduce complications of the disease, and improve quality of life. Early career scientists can receive up to $50,000 in funding for their research through donations by individuals, corporations, and foundations. Click to learn more about current projects and provide support.

Learn More +
Insulin Pump

Comparing Insulin Pumps and Injections for Managing Type 1 Diabetes

Learning how to effectively manage type 1 diabetes can take time. It takes practice and trial-and-error to understand how each person’s body responds to different foods, activities, and insulin doses. A recent study found that children with type 1 diabetes may be able to control blood sugar levels more effectively and reduce risk of complications by using insulin pumps as opposed to manually injecting insulin.

The study was conducted by the University of Metabolic Research Laboratories and analyzed data for 14,460 patients with insulin pumps and 16,460 who injected insulin. All participants had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for at least one year and were younger than 20 years old. The results for children and adolescents using pumps outperformed those who did not.

According the findings, only 9.55 children per 100 experienced severe hypoglycemia each year when using insulin pumps compared to 14 children per 100 for those who relied on injections. Along the same lines, 3.64 children per 100 were treated each year for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) while on an insulin pump compared to 4.26 children per 100 for those treated with injections. Furthermore, HbA1c levels and daily insulin doses were slightly lower for those with insulin pumps as well.

The results highlight the importance of considering insulin pumps for children living with type 1 diabetes and ensuring that they are educated on their condition and how to properly use the pump for blood sugar control. However, this is only one option available and may not be the best choice for all children. Dr. Simon Heller from the University of Sheffield was not involved in the study but notes, “For adolescents, particularly those who find it difficult to do all the complicated things in managing diabetes, pumps may not be the best option, particularly if insulin is missed.” Parents, children, and medical provider should work together to determine the best option for each individual.

The Diabetes Research Connection supports early career scientists in novel studies regarding type 1 diabetes in an effort to develop more effective treatment options, potential cures, and options for improving quality of life. Click to learn more about current projects and provide support.

Learn More +
Gut Flora

New Biomarker May Help with T1D Detection, Prevention, and Treatment

As scientists continue studying type 1 diabetes (T1D), they develop a deeper understanding of changes that occur in the body. It has been known for a while that the body attacks insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas leaving the body unable to regulate blood sugar. Researchers have recently discovered that MAIT cells within the body – cells that are activated by bacteria and associated with mucosae – may also play a role. They are part of the body’s innate immune system and may serve as a biomarker for early detection of T1D.

The study, which was conducted by AP-HP Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris and the Cochin Institute, examined blood sample from patients with and without T1D, as well as animal models. The results showed that MAIT cell levels were lower in the blood of children diagnosed with T1D than those who were not. This could be because the MAIT cells had migrated to the pancreas in children with T1D; they are believed to play a role in the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. But one interesting point to note was that before T1D had even developed in the animal models, the MAIT cells were already altered. This could serve as an early form of detection and prevention of the disease.

The mutation in MAIT cells may also contribute to gut mucosa being more susceptible to bacteria. This may lead to an increased autoimmune response. When MAIT cells are functioning normally, they help maintain homeostasis in the gut mucosa.

Scientists may be able to use this information to enhance early detection of T1D, develop strategies for prevention, or improve targeted treatment options. More research is needed to explore the link between MAIT cells and gut microbiota, but this is a starting point.

The Diabetes Research Connection actively supports novel research regarding preventing, treating, and potentially curing T1D. The organization raises funds that are provided to early career scientists for innovative research projects. To learn more and support their efforts, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Learn More +


See our approved research projects and campaigns.

Role of the integrated stress response in type 1 diabetes pathogenesis
In individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D), the insulin-producing beta cells are spontaneously destroyed by their own immune system. The trigger that provokes the immune system to destroy the beta cells is unknown. However, accumulating evidence suggest that signals are perhaps first sent out by the stressed beta cells that eventually attracts the immune cells. Stressed cells adapt different stress mitigation systems as an adaptive response. However, when these adaptive responses go awry, it results in cell death. One of the stress response mechanisms, namely the integrated stress response (ISR) is activated under a variety of stressful stimuli to promote cell survival. However, when ISR is chronically activated, it can be damaging to the cells and can lead to cell death. The role of the ISR in the context of T1D is unknown. Therefore, in this DRC funded study, we propose to study the ISR in the beta cells to determine its role in propagating T1D.
Wearable Skin Fluorescence Imaging Patch for the Detection of Blood Glucose Level on an Engineered Skin Platform
A Potential Second Cure for T1D by Re-Educating the Patient’s Immune System
L Ferreira
Validating the Hypothesis to Cure T1D by Eliminating the Rejection of Cells From Another Person by Farming Beta Cells From a Patient’s Own Stem Cells
Han Zhu
Taming a Particularly Lethal Category of Cells May Reduce/Eliminate the Onset of T1D
JRDwyer 2022 Lab 1
Can the Inhibition of One Specific Body Gene Prevent Type 1 Diabetes?
Is Cholesterol Exacerbating T1D by Reducing the Functionality and Regeneration Ability of Residual Beta Cells?
Regeneration Ability of Residual Beta Cells
A Call to Question… Is T1D Caused by Dysfunctionality of Two Pancreatic Cells (β and α)?
Xin Tong
Novel therapy initiative with potential path to preventing T1D by targeting TWO components of T1D development (autoimmune response and beta-cell survival)
flavia pecanha