DRC & Research News

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

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Genes Kidneys

Scientists Delve More Deeply into Genetics and T1D

Type 1 diabetes is a complex disease. Scientists know that it is not caused by a single gene – there are multiple genes involved, and the differences may vary from person to person. In fact, a recent study by a TEDDY (The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young) team has identified six gene regions that may play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Researchers have already found that there are two key antibodies that are present in individuals with the disease, but one typically appears before the other, and just because a person has one or both of these antibodies does not necessarily mean they will develop diabetes. These two antibodies – one that affects insulin and one that affects the enzyme that regulates insulin-producing beta cells – account for two major subtypes of the disease, and there may be more yet to be discovered.

This recent TEDDY study focused on identifying non-HLA genes because these genes are not directly linked to the immune system. Because the immune system attacks insulin-producing beta cells, HLA genes are already a prime focus, so the researchers wanted to look at a different area. The more genes that can be identified as potentially playing a role in type 1 diabetes risk, the more effective and accurate screening measures can be.

The TEDDY initiative looks at both genetic and environmental factors in diabetes to determine how they may impact one another. The international initiative is following nearly 9,000 children for 15 years. This particular study involved 5,806 Caucasian TEDDY participants due to genetic differences between ethnic groups.

In addition to examining non-HLA genes, the researchers also looked at 176,586 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or single variations in the building blocks of an individual’s DNA. They sought to determine whether type 1 diabetes is associated with certain SNPs. They broke this down even further to look at differences in SNPs in individuals who have T1D, and those who have islet cell autoantibodies (IA). While IA is considered a risk factor, it does not always develop into full-blown T1D.

This is the first time that this type of longitudinal study has been used in conjunction with gene identification and the development of diabetes. Scientists are hopeful that by better understanding the genetic changes that occur with T1D, they can improve detection of risk factors and potentially develop new strategies for preventing or treating the disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, 1 in 300 people in the United States are affected by type 1 diabetes by age 18.

Supporting novel research that aims to prevent and cure type 1 diabetes, or improve quality of life and reduce complications for individuals living with the disease, is the aim of the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC). Though not associated with this particular project, the DRC provides funding for early career scientists to move forward with research studies on T1D and improve understanding of the disease. To learn more, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Islet cells on a string

Single Strand of Islet Cells Could Change Diabetes Management

For patients with type 1 diabetes, daily insulin injections become a way of life. Since the pancreas either does not produce enough or any insulin, and the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells, the body is unable to regulate blood sugar on its own. There are many studies underway examining potential treatments that would eliminate the need for regular insulin injections.

One such study is being conducted by researchers at Cornell University in collaboration with Novo Nordisk and the University of Michigan Medical School. The researchers have developed an implant that would enable the production of insulin while warding off an attack from the immune system. The device is a single thread covered with “hundreds of thousands of islet cells” that is then fully encased in hydrogel. The hydrogel not only keeps the islets in place, it also protects them from being damaged.

The thread does not adhere to tissue within the body, so it can be easily removed and replaced once the islet cells reach the end of their lifespan. Current research shows they could potentially last anywhere from several months up to two years. This device has shown promising results when tested in both mice and dogs. No testing on humans has taken place yet, which would need to be done before the technology is potentially approved for use.

Technology continues to advance when it comes to treating and managing type 1 diabetes, and this is very encouraging. The Diabetes Research Connection strives to support early career scientists in conducting novel research studies focused on type 1 diabetes in order to improve the quality of life for individuals living with the disease and enhance diagnosis, prevention, and treatment efforts. To learn more, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Research Microscope Molecule drc

Patents Approved for Small Molecule Therapies for Type 1 Diabetes

There are numerous approaches to managing, treating, and potentially curing type 1 diabetes (T1D). Some focus on replenishing or protecting insulin-producing beta cells, some involve the development of devices that simulate similar functions, and still, others seek to zero in on issues related to the development of T1D.

ImmunoMolecular Therapeutics recently received patents for two of its small molecule therapies that can be used in the treatment of T1D. These patents provide exclusive rights to the use of methyldopa and D-methyldopa (D-MDOPA) as part of immunotherapy treatment. According to the company, “The lead candidate drug [D-MDOPA] is an oral small molecule that starves the autoimmune process in type 1 diabetes by blocking DQ8 on specific immune cells. Our goal is to preserve pancreatic beta cell function and maintain normal insulin production in at-risk and early-stage patients with type 1 diabetes.” By blocking DQ8, the immune system will not attack insulin-producing beta cells, therefore, preserving their function.

Immunotherapy is one option when it comes to treating T1D. The Diabetes Research Connection supports early career scientists in moving forward with novel research for a variety of methods used in the treatment and prevention of the disease. To learn more about current projects and support their advancement, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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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