DRC & Research News

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

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Alberto Quote

Connect For A Cure: November 2020 Newsletter

DRC has distributed over $400,000 to research projects like Dr. Hughes’s and Dr. Racine’s in 2020 alone! We have received three times the average amount of applications for funding of new projects over the past couple of months. View our “Support a Project” page to see what other research projects we are currently funding by clicking here. Take a look at our newsletter to see how great DRC’s 3rd Annual Dance for Diabetes Virtual Party was! Thank you to everyone who participated and donated to the event, DRC could not do what it does without the generous support of its donors and community.

Click this link to view our November newsletter that we mailed out previously this month about what we’ve been up to and the impact we are making together. It takes a community to connect for a cure!



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Understanding the Relationship between Diabetes and COVID-19

COVID-19 is a relatively new virus, and one that researchers are continuing to learn more about every day. Studies have shown that individuals with underlying health conditions are at increased risk for complications and mortality from COVID-19; this includes diabetes. Healthcare providers have also seen an increase in new-onset diabetes cases and are interested in knowing whether this is related to COVID-19. The virus binds to ACE2 receptors, which are expressed in pancreatic beta cells. This may contribute to the development of ketosis and ketoacidosis in patients with COVID-19 and alter glucose metabolism.

In an effort to gather data and investigate any potential relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes, researchers have established a global registry called the CoviDIAB Registry. This registry will collect data from patients around the world that “includes, but is not limited to, the prolonged effects after the complications of the virus and diabetes subside, whether the new-onset diabetes is a different type of diabetes, and the impact of different phenotypes present at presentation and during recovery.”

The data would then be used to guide future studies and potentially develop more effective treatment methods. There have been multiple cases where individuals have been diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as ketosis or diabetic ketosis. In turn, this developed into ketoacidosis and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in some patients, which can be dangerous to their health if left untreated. Both ketosis and diabetes are linked to longer hospital stays for COVID-19 patients, and ketosis has also been attributed to an increased risk of mortality.

More research is necessary to understand any possible connections between COVID-19 and diabetes, including severity of complications and diagnosis of new-onset diabetes. As more data is collected and analyzed, researchers can help guide appropriate treatment strategies in order to reduce complications and better manage patient health.

Though not involved with this study, the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) has been involved in advancing diabetes research through providing critical funding to early career scientists. Donations come from individuals, corporations, and foundations, and 100% of these funds go directly to the scientists for their projects. Check out current DRC projects and learn more about how to support these efforts by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Could Type 1 Diabetes be an Effect of COVID-19?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues on, researchers are learning more about the wide range of effects that it has on individuals. The disease presents differently in different people, ranging from those who are asymptomatic to those who end up with severe symptoms and are put on a ventilator. Some people develop a loss of taste and smell or having a lingering cough and trouble breathing, even after recovery. There is so much that is yet unknown about SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19.

Another concerning discovery that researchers are investigating is whether the virus may play a role in some patients developing type 1 diabetes. A recent study found that some people who did not previously have a diabetes diagnosis are experiencing type 1 diabetes. Though more research is needed, researchers are questioning whether the virus triggers an autoimmune response that damages or destroys insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.

There have been numerous patients who have presented with hyperglycemia, but this could also be due to the stress put on their body by the disease, as well as steroids used to promote recovery. In some patients, blood sugar issues resolved on their own, not resulting in type 1 diabetes, whereas others had a lasting effect. It is important to follow up after recovery to see if blood sugar management problems still exist and if there is the possibility that type 1 diabetes has developed.

These are still preliminary studies, so researchers cannot say for certain whether COVID-19 may cause type 1 diabetes in some people, but it is a possibility that they are continuing to investigate. Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested to see how this study evolves moving forward and what it could mean for the type 1 diabetes community. The DRC is committed to providing critical funding to support type 1 diabetes research, though was not involved with this study. Learn more about current projects and how to help by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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New Preclinical Drug

A New Approach to Treating Diabetes and Its Effects

For decades, researchers have been studying cellular changes in the body that contribute to the development of diabetes. They have created a wide array of treatment options to help manage the effects and minimize complications. As they gain a better understanding of the causes of diabetes, they have also made advancements toward curing or preventing the disease. Each therapeutic modality works slightly differently.

A recent study has found that a new drug may hold promising results when it comes to combatting both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This drug has been 18 years in the making and still has a way to go, but it has shown great potential in current mouse models as well as isolated human islets.

The drug, SRI-37330, is administered orally and affects both insulin and glucagon production in the pancreas and liver. In individuals with type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin to effectively manage blood sugar while releasing too much glucagon which can contribute to hyperglycemia. SRI-37330 may help control hyperglycemia, hyperglucagonemia, excessive glucose production by the liver, and fatty liver, which are all significant issues when it comes to diabetes.

Lead researcher Dr. Anath Shalev and her team have spent nearly two decades studying diabetes and its potential causes. This led them to identify a key protein, TXNIP, which can have detrimental effects on islet function and survival. SRI-37330 has the ability to inhibit TXNIP signaling and expression without negatively impacting other genes or processes.

According to their research, not only did the drug help protect mouse models from developing type 1 diabetes, it controlled blood glucose levels more effectively than metformin and empagliflozin, two oral anti-diabetic drugs commonly used today. SRI-37330 helped to decrease glucagon production and release by pancreatic islets and the liver without having the countereffect of increasing hypoglycemia liability in the mice.

One result that researchers did not anticipate was the ability of SRI-37330 to “dramatically improve the severe fatty liver observed in obese diabetic db/db mice.” This opens the door for more studies to determine whether the drug could be used as a potential treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well.

Overall, researchers concluded that SRI-37330 is “orally bioavailable, has a favorable safety profile and inhibits TXNIP expression and signally in mouse and human islets, inhibits glucagon secretion and function, lowers hepatic glucose production and hepatic steatosis, and exhibits strong anti-diabetic effects in mouse models of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.”

It is important to note that mouse models do not always translate the same in human models. A drug that is effective at treating induced diabetes in mice may not have the same efficacy in humans. More research is needed to see how SRI-37330 would work in human clinical trials and not just isolated human islets or mouse models. However, this drug is an encouraging finding in the field and one that may hold significant potential.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested to see how this study progresses moving forward and what it could mean for the treatment and prevention of type 1 diabetes in humans. This type of work is critical in advancing understanding of the disease as well as care and treatment options. The DRC supports early-career scientists pursuing novel research related to type 1 diabetes by providing up to $50K in funding. Learn more about current projects and how to donate by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org

Please DONATE NOW so DRC can keep bringing you credible, peer-reviewed T1D news and research.

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Metabolic Memory

Exploring the Role of Metabolic Memory in Diabetes Complications

As the immune system slowly destroys insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, a hallmark sign of type 1 diabetes, the body has an increasingly difficult time controlling blood glucose levels. These cells are no longer available to naturally secrete insulin in response to rising blood sugar, meaning individuals must control this process manually or through the use of continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and/or insulin pumps.

Poor glycemic control can contribute to a multitude of diabetes complications and health concerns. It is critical for individuals who are newly diagnosed with the disease to learn how to manage their diabetes and keep blood glucose levels within the target range. A recent study found that incidences of poor glycemic control can have a lasting impact, potentially triggering complications later on in life, even if blood sugar is well-managed now.

This occurrence may be due to the body’s metabolic memory. When hyperglycemia occurs, it may lead to DNA methylation or changes in gene expression. These epigenetic changes may be ongoing, lasting for years to come, even though they do not actually alter the person’s genetic code. Researchers at the Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope analyzed blood samples from more than 500 participants in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (DCCT/EDIC) clinical trial involving patients with type 1 diabetes.

They used the samples to profile DNA methylation, then compared that to the participants’ glycemic history and any complications that had developed over the past 18 years. Their findings showed that “prior history of hyperglycemia may induce persistent DNA methylation changes in blood and stem cells at key loci, which are epigenetically retained in certain cells to facilitate metabolic memory, likely through modifying enhancer activity at nearby genes.”

By matching these key factors, researchers may be able to uncover biomarkers that could help predict the risk of complications in the future. Recognizing signs early on could help initiate interventions to reduce complications or prevent the progression of these issues. There is still a lot that researchers do not yet understand about metabolic memory, but this is a start. While the research team at City of Hope is currently looking at DNA methylation and metabolic memory as it relates to retinopathy and nephropathy complications, they would like to expand this to include other regions where complications can occur through whole-genome bisulfite sequencing.

In the past, it was more difficult for individuals with type 1 diabetes to maintain glycemic control following diagnosis due to inferior technology, but over the years, technology has greatly improved. This has allowed individuals to minimize complications by using devices that have empowered them to improve their care and better manage their blood glucose levels. These advancements have also helped people with more recent diagnoses achieve better glycemic control earlier on, which may impact metabolic memory and the risk of future complications.

The Diabetes Research Connection is interested to see how this study advances understanding of metabolic memory and the role of DNA methylation in diabetes management. Developing complications is an ongoing concern for individuals living with T1D. The DRC is committed to providing funding for early-career scientists pursuing novel research studies focused on prevention, treatment, and a cure for the disease, as well as improving quality of life and minimizing complications. Check out current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Please DONATE NOW so DRC can keep bringing you credible, peer-reviewed T1D news and research.

Thank you

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Genetics in T1D

Digging Deeper into the Role of Genetics in Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a complex disease. While researchers know what it does to the body, they are still unclear on exactly why this happen and what triggers this response. Advances in genetic testing have led scientists to identify more than 50 genome regions that may be associated with type 1 diabetes. It is clear that there is not a single gene responsible for this disease, but rather many that all play a part.

In addition, researchers have determined that genetics are not the sole determinant of whether an individual develops type 1 diabetes (T1D); environmental factors are also responsible. This makes it even more challenging to pinpoint what causes T1D and who is most at risk. However, the more scientists understand about both the genetic and environmental causes, the closer they can get to potentially preventing the disease. This is critical because there has been a nearly 30% increase in Americans diagnosed with T1D since 2017 according to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report.

Type 1 diabetes can run in families, and having a first-degree family member with the disease can put individuals at greater risk. Researchers have identified two genes in particular that are of interest – HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 – which are both located on the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex on chromosome 6p21. Individuals who have both of these genes account for about 40% of T1D cases, but just because someone has both genes does not necessarily mean they will develop T1D. Likewise, there are many people who do not have these two genes who go on to be diagnosed with the disease. In twin studies, if one twin had T1D, only about 50% of co-twins developed it as well, demonstrating that it is not solely genetic (nor solely environmental).

Another interesting finding was that children were at greater risk of islet autoimmunity if their father or a sibling had T1D, as opposed to if their mother had it. Furthermore, the study showed that “children with a second-degree relative with type 2 diabetes showed significantly delayed progression from islet autoimmunity to clinical type 1 diabetes vs. children without such relatives.” This data was collected through The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study, which includes children from the United States, Finland, Germany, and Sweden.

These types of studies have made researchers re-evaluate the potential risk factors for the disease and how to effectively predict susceptibility. They have been trying to fine-tune an approved genetic risk score assessment to include more recent data regarding islet autoantibodies, age, and metabolic factors used to track disease progression. Calculating a genetic risk score that encompasses many different pieces of information and parameters may help researchers improve predictive modeling. In turn, this may help with prevention efforts.

There are a lot of different factors that may contribute to the development of T1D, and all of this has helped researchers generate more focused studies to support prevention. The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) has raised funds for numerous early-career scientists pursuing research in this area, but more funding and research are needed to keep moving forward. As new cases of type 1 diabetes continue to rise, there has been a greater push for prediction and prevention efforts. Learn more about current DRC projects and how to help by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Please DONATE NOW so DRC can keep bringing you credible, peer-reviewed T1D news and research.

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Gut Microbiome

Examining Gut Microbiome Differences

The composition of gut bacteria – both good and bad – differs in everyone. Each person has their own makeup dependent upon diet, environment, geographical location, and other factors. In an effort to better understand potential risk factors for type 1 diabetes, researchers are taking a closer look at the role gut microbiomes may play.

The way that the body responds to various bacteria may influence autoimmune responses such as the one that triggers the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells and leads to the development of type 1 diabetes (T1D). According to researchers, “gut microbiota functions like an endocrine organ.” This organ-like structure is one that scientists still have a lot to learn about.

A recent study compared the gut microbiomes of 31 children who had recently been diagnosed with T1D and 25 healthy controls without the disease. None of the participants had gastrointestinal issues or had taken probiotics or antibiotics within one month prior to the study. A brief medical history was taken in addition to measuring C peptide levels. The control group provided fecal samples as well.

Data were analyzed using the MicrobiomeAnalyst tool in combination with two machine learning algorithms. The results showed that the children who had been recently diagnosed with T1D had “significantly higher relative abundance” of seven key taxa compared to the healthy children. In addition, the relative abundance of 5 other taxa was notably lower than in the control group. There was also a negative correlation between multiple taxa and the presence of anti-insulin autoantibodies.

Overall, the researchers determined that “our data showed that controls had higher alpha diversity than children with T1D.” However, it is important to note that they also concluded that “it is currently not possible to clearly state if gut microbiota diversity represents a cause or a consequence of autoimmunity in patients with T1D.” More research is necessary to determine if controlling or altering gut microbiota may be an effective method of preventing or treating T1D.

Studies like these are essential for building a stronger understanding of how T1D may develop, as well as how it impacts the body. Prevention is an area of interest that continues to grow and where more funding is needed. Though not involved with this study, the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) provides critical funding to a wide range of projects led by early-career scientists, including those focused on prevention. It will continue to allocate donations to this area as well as others related to the treatment, management, and cure of type 1 diabetes. Learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Please DONATE NOW so DRC can keep bringing you credible, peer-reviewed T1D news and research.

Thank you

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Leveraging Nanoparticles in Diagnosing and Treating Type 1 Diabetes

Leveraging Nanoparticles in Diagnosing and Treating Type 1 Diabetes

Medical technology has seen significant advancements over the years helping to improve healthcare in many ways. An area of recent focus has been nanotechnology. Researchers have been exploring opportunities to use nanomedicine to expand upon current diagnosis and treatment options for type 1 diabetes, which affects millions of people around the world.

For instance, scientists know that a key marker for type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. But oftentimes these cellular changes are not noticed until they become severe enough that symptoms of high blood sugar are apparent. Being able to identify biomarkers earlier can improve the diagnosis of the disease and allow patients to receive treatment sooner.

A recent study examines the use of nanoparticles to support the diagnosis of T1D as well as treatment options. Pairing the nanoparticle ferumoxytol with current magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology may enable healthcare providers to better visualize where there is inflammation within pancreatic islets. These nanoparticles readily accumulate in inflamed islets but then are safely metabolized by the body without any harmful side effects. Inflammation is an early sign of the development of T1D.

In addition, nanoparticles can also be loaded up with various substances such as peptides and injected to specific locations to target key processes like the downregulation of immune cells. This may help slow or prevent the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. Or, nanotechnology could be used to encapsulate cells or molecules with bioparticles to ward off immune system attacks.

While more research is necessary, there is a great deal of opportunity that may exist for using nanotechnology and nanoparticles in healthcare. It could one day open new doors for the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as type 1 diabetes or improve existing therapies.

Funding research around T1D is vital. Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is committed to providing early-career scientists with funding to support novel research studies focused on prevention and management of the disease as well as improving quality of life and reducing complications of T1D. Learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Beta Cells

Enhancing Protection of Insulin-Producing Beta-Cells

Enhancing Protection of Insulin-Producing Beta-Cells

Insulin-producing beta-cells play a critical role in managing blood sugar by automatically releasing insulin in response to increased blood glucose levels. In individuals with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys these cells, leaving blood sugar unchecked. Since the body no longer produces insulin on its own, individuals must regulate this process, often with the help of continuous glucose monitors, insulin pumps, and other devices.

For years, researchers have been trying to better understand why the immune system attacks these beta-cells and how they can prevent this process from occurring. A recent study found that the enzyme renalase may play a role. Stress is a key factor in cell destruction, and by inhibiting renalase, cells have greater protection against the effects of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. This inhibiting may help enhance the survival of transplanted pancreatic beta-cells in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, and it may have the ability to help slow progression of the disease at its onset.

Researchers tested these processes on non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse models as well as human cells. In the mice, the beta-cells that had the functionality of renalase disabled survived better against immune system attacks than fully functional beta-cells. In addition, certain T-cells were less likely to attack the pancreatic beta-cells without renalase function. The same results held true for human cells; they were better protected against ER stress.

Furthermore, the researchers found that there was already an FDA-approved drug that targets an enzyme similar to renalase and is used to treat hypertension called pargyline. They tested pargyline in a small clinical trial to evaluate its effects on pancreatic beta-cells and whether or not it could protect them against ER stress. Their results showed that it had a protective effect on both mouse models and human cells. The next step is to test the drug in human clinical trials.

More research and testing are needed to determine whether this drug could be used to protect against or slow the progression of type 1 diabetes or be used as the starting block for developing a new drug that specifically targets renalase. However, this is a step in the right direction toward improving prevention methods for type 1 diabetes.

Many studies are focused on treatment or potential cures for type 1 diabetes, but more funding is necessary for prevention efforts like the one above. The Diabetes Research Connection, though not involved with this study, supports research across all aspects of type 1 diabetes, including prevention. There are several current projects led by early-career scientists focused on disrupting the onset of T1Dblocking processes that contribute to the development of the disease, and preserving insulin secretion, which can potentially impact prevention efforts if fully funded. Learn more about these projects and how to help by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Dr. Quandt

Detecting Diabetic Retinopathy Using Artificial Intelligence

Detecting Diabetic Retinopathy Using Artificial Intelligence

Managing blood sugar is not the only challenge that individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) face. There can be numerous complications that arise from the disease including conditions such as nerve damage, kidney damage, and eye damage. Diabetic retinopathy – or damage to the retinas – is caused by high blood sugar levels, which can weaken blood vessels and cause them to leak or bleed. If left untreated, it can lead to sight loss or even blindness.

To help prevent vision problems, individuals with T1D are encouraged to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year to check for issues. One of the challenges that healthcare systems experience is keeping up with evaluating each scan because it comes with a heavy human workload. However, a recent study in the United Kingdom may have found a way to significantly speed up the process without sacrificing the quality of results.

Researchers explored the possibility of using artificial intelligence (AI) to screen images for signs of damage. The screening technology, called EyeArt, was used to assess 120,000 images collected from 30,000 patient scans as part of the Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP). According to the study, “The results showed that the technology has 95.7% accuracy for detecting damage that would require referral to specialist services, but 100% accuracy for moderate to severe retinopathy or serious disease that could lead to vision loss.”

Projections estimate that using AI screening technology could save the National Health Service (NHS) more than £10 million every year on more than 2.2 million screening episodes. It would greatly decrease the demand for human grading of scans and save time. This technology has the ability to be used outside of England as well, resulting in even more cost savings and the opportunity to reduce resource demands while also helping to protect the vision of millions of individuals with T1D. Diabetic retinopathy is treatable if caught early.

The current coronavirus pandemic has caused a backlog in cases, but AI has the potential to help healthcare providers catch up and continue providing quality care to reduce vision loss from diabetes. The technology was independently tested using more than 120,000 real-world patient images, helping to validate its effectiveness and benefits.

Individuals with T1D must be vigilant about their health and undergoing regular screenings to check for potential complications or issues. The use of artificial intelligence is one more way to enhance the quality and efficiency of testing and promote better health. Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested to see how this study evolves, and if more countries will follow suit when it comes to using AI to grade diabetic eye screening images.

It is these types of advancements that help grow our understanding of type 1 diabetes and improve how this condition is treated and managed. The DRC supports these efforts by providing critical funding to early-career scientists pursuing novel research studies focused on T1D. One hundred percent of donations go to the scientists. To learn more about current projects and how to help, visit https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Please DONATE NOW so DRC can keep bringing you credible, peer-reviewed T1D news and research.

Thank you

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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