DRC & Research News

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

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Existing Medication May Be Beneficial in Treating and Preventing Type 1 Diabetes

A great deal of research has gone into better understanding type 1 diabetes and its potential causes. Many treatment options have been developed to support individuals in effectively managing their blood sugar whether through insulin, transplanted cells, or other means. Scientists are also always striving to create new options.

However, through some high-tech research, researchers may have found a way to treat and even possibly prevent type 1 diabetes using a medication that already exists and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Aaron Michels, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and his team found that more than half of individuals who are at risk for developing diabetes have the DQ8 molecule.

They believe that by blocking DQ8, they may be able to prevent the development of the disease and treat those patients already affected. Using a high-tech computer, they analyzed FDA-approved drugs for those that could be used to inhibit the DQ8 molecule. And it just so happens that one exists – methyldopa, a medication commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Unlike immune suppressant drugs which may be used to try to help manage T1D and can have undesirable side effects, methyldopa does not have a negative impact on the immune function of cells but still inhibits DQ8.

The researchers explored the potential of this drug using mice to confirm their findings, then conducted a small clinical study on 20 human participants with T1D with similar results. The results of their study may lead the way to more effective treatment and prevention of type 1 diabetes as well as other health conditions. They are set to conduct a larger clinical study to further investigate the use of methyldopa for T1D. According to Dr. Michels, “With this drug, we can potentially prevent up to 60 percent of type 1 diabetes in those at risk for the disease. This is a very significant development.”

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see where this study may lead and how it may impact future treatment and prevention efforts for the disease. It could open doors to other studies on personalized treatment at the molecular level. Though not involved in this study, the DRC supports peer-reviewed novel research projects by early-career scientists focused on type 1 diabetes. To learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts, visit Our Projects.

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Treating Type 1 Diabetes

Gene Therapy Targets Pancreatic Cells in Treating Type 1 Diabetes

A major challenge in treating type 1 diabetes is figuring out how to overcome the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. The body mistakenly targets and destroys these cells leaving the body unable to manage blood sugar levels on its own. Individuals with this disease must be vigilant about checking their blood sugar and administering insulin as needed, which can be an exhausting task.

Current treatment options include injection of insulin, use of continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps, stem cell therapies and implants, partial transplants, and other strategies. These treatments vary in effectiveness from person to person as well as how long they last. In addition, some require patients to continue taking anti-rejection drugs which can be hard on the body.

However, a new treatment may offer longer lasting, more effective results in the battle against type 1 diabetes. A recent study found that by using gene therapy targeting two specific genes, insulin-producing cells may be able to be recreated in the body using existing alpha cells. A healthy pancreas contains both alpha and beta cells. In those with type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed. But when mice were injected with gene therapy to reprogram some alpha cells to take over the function of these beta cells, they were once again able to produce insulin and manage blood sugar.

The genetic changes were administered using a bioengineered virus. The virus had been altered so that it would not make the recipient ill, but could still penetrate cells to modify their DNA. The alpha cells then assumed insulin-producing functions without triggering the immune system to attack because the cells are already normally present in the body. Furthermore, researchers found that by delivering the gene therapy endoscopically into the pancreas, it stayed there and did not negatively impact other areas of the body.

While the treatment only lasted approximately four months in mice, scientists believe that it could be effective for several years in humans before retreatment would be necessary. The researchers are seeking FDA approval to begin clinical trials on humans using this gene therapy to evaluate its effectiveness and safety in treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes. There are approximately 30.3 million people in the United States and 422 million people worldwide affected by diabetes.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see how gene therapy may advance treatment options for type 1 diabetes and improve quality of life for millions of people. The DRC supports novel research studies for type 1 diabetes and provides essential funding early career scientists to carry out these studies. To learn more about current projects and donate to this research, visit Our Projects.

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dexcom g6

Advanced Technology Could Bypass Finger Sticks for Glucose Monitoring

One of the annoying – but necessary – parts of managing type 1 diabetes in conducting multiple finger sticks every day to check blood sugar levels. This is one of the most accurate ways that people with diabetes can determine whether they need to inject themselves with insulin or not, especially around mealtimes and when being physically active. But advances in technology may have found a way to accurately monitor blood sugar levels without requiring finger sticks.

Dexcom is a company that is well known for its continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems, and they are set to launch a new model, the Dexcom G6, in June. Ahead of this release, one user got to try it out early and shared her experiences with the new system.

The G6 comes with a sensor that is placed under the skin and affixed with a transmitter that wirelessly relays information to a receiver. The receiver is often the person’s smartphone and is accessed using a corresponding app. There is an auto-applicator that makes inserting the sensor quick, easy, and painless. Once inserted, it is functional for 10 days before shutting off and needing to be replaced.

However, the sensor continuously monitors blood sugar levels so that individuals do not have to constantly check on their own using a glucometer. For this user, it took a few days for the G6 to begin accurately reading her glucose levels, so she did double-check initially with the glucometer. However, soon they began giving the same readings, and she could track her blood sugar using the app.

The system also gives alerts and alarms for when blood sugar becomes too high or dips too low. It can even alert to downward trends before blood sugar gets the chance to become dangerously low, allowing individuals to appropriately respond and keep levels more stable. In addition, the company has made the transmitter sleeker and more comfortable. It has a 28% lower profile than the current G5 model and affixes flush against the sensor.

Since the system has not been released to the public yet, the final cost is unknown. Plus, this will vary depending on an individual’s insurance coverage or if they are paying out of pocket. However, it provides many benefits in helping individuals with T1D in effectively managing their blood sugar in a more hands-free way and providing readings around the clock that can be viewed through the app or receiver. The benefits may outweigh the costs in the end for some.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see how technology is changing to better support the needs of individuals with type 1 diabetes and help them manage their condition. As research continues to advance, so do technology and treatment options. The DRC is committed to empowering early career scientists in pursuing novel research around type 1 diabetes and raises funds to support these efforts. Click to learn more about current projects and provide support.

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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