DRC & Research News

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

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Update from DRC Researcher Jian Zhang

Patients with diabetes rely on blood sugar information to make decisions on insulin therapy. Standard of care to read blood sugar includes finger pricking for a glucose meter or a wearable continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. While CGM devices have been a major technological improvement for glucose monitoring, the current FDA-approved sensors have limitations. The two current types of CGM sensors are electrochemical and optical sensors. The Dexcom G6, FreeStyle Libre 3, and Medtronic Guardian 3 are all electrochemical sensors. This type of device can have insufficient stability in the body, is susceptible to corrosion, has poor accuracy at low glucose, and can have interference which requires frequent calibration with a glucose meter.

To address these technological limitations, we designed a new type of optical CGM that includes a fluorescent nanodiamond boronic hydrogel system in porous microneedles. Fluorescent nanodiamonds are an inexpensive material that is easy for larger-scale synthesis. The fluorescent nanodiamonds make a stable signal that can be detected and are compatible for use inside the body. The boronic hydrogel is a polymer material that can detect changes in glucose levels. This study attached a boronic hydrogel to a nanodiamond to make a novel fluorescent CGM device. In our proof-of-concept studies, we showed that we can reliably measure blood sugar levels in a mouse for up to 30 days. Also, in large animal models, we showed that the device left minimal scar tissue. Lastly, the hydrogels that we used can be chemically adjusted to detect other biological signals, making it an attractive platform for noninvasive biomedical monitoring. This type of system can be used as a diagnostic tool for other diseases, such as cancer.

In summary, our proof-of-concept study shows that a microneedle device with this material can serve as a minimally invasive and long-lasting fluorescence sensor for measuring blood sugar. Our sensor is small and easy to apply/remove, providing a safer and more user-friendly optical CGM device for diabetes patients. This work was recently published in Advanced Science in an article called “Continuous Glucose Monitoring Enabled by Fluorescent Nanodiamond Boronic Hydrogel.”

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Islet Cell Pic

FDA Approves Lantidra – a promising cellular therapy for type 1 diabetes

Big Picture

· On June 28, the FDA approved Lantidra, which is the first cellular therapy to treat type one diabetes. (FDA Press release)

· 21 out of 30 participants who received Lantidra treatment did not need to take insulin for at least a year, including 10 participants who did not need to take insulin for more than five years.

How does this cellular therapy work?

Pancreatic cells from a deceased donor are transplanted into a patient with T1D to replace insulin-producing beta cells, which help control blood glucose (BG) levels. Lantidra is the first commercialized therapy. It builds on decades of experimental islet cell transplants.

Who is eligible to receive Lantidra?

Patients with T1D need daily insulin therapy. Some develop hypoglycemic unawareness, which may lead to sudden and severe low BG levels, which may result in a coma, seizures, or death. The FDA approved Latidra treatment only for adults with T1D and hypoglycemic unawareness.

How well does Lantidra work?

Lantidra therapy was tested in two non-randomized studies. Each T1D participant with hypoglycemic unawareness received 1-3 infusions of Lantidra. The goal was for participants to become insulin independent, eliminating the need for daily insulin injections and self-regulation of BG without patient intervention. Five participants never became insulin-independent, 21 were insulin independent for a year or more, 11 were insulin independent for 1-5 years, and 10 were insulin independent for over 5 years.

Does Lantidra have side effects?

One major drawback of this therapy is the need for immunosuppression drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted islets. The intensity of these side effects related to the number of infusions received. The number and severity of side effects varied and included nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, anemia, and abdominal pain. Some severe complications required stopping the use of immunosuppressants, which caused the death of the transplanted cells and loss of insulin independence. A majority of participants reported at least one serious negative effect from the combined Lantidra and immunosuppressant therapy.

How will this FDA approval impact type 1 diabetes therapy?

Since Latidra is approved only for T1Ds with hypoglycemic unawareness and is likely to be expensive, this therapy will help a small percentage of those with T1D to achieve insulin independence. Continuous glucose monitoring and automated insulin devices may also alleviate the hypoglycemic unawareness issue but is not a cure.

Where do we go from here?

Considerably more research is needed to develop a safe, cost-effective T1D cure without immunosuppression. Vetted, novel approaches are supported by DRC donors. Cures may include artificial beta cells, immune-privileged islet cells generated from stem cells, smart insulin and other potential therapies to universally treat individuals living with T1D. DRC continues to monitor advancements and fund innovative approaches to end T1D.

Vincenzo Cirulli and Alberto Hayek, the current and past Chairs of DRC’s Scientific Review Committee, comment on FDA approval of Lantidra:

Lantidra’s cadaveric islet transplant technology was first published in 2000 during the Edmonton trials. It has not progressed much since then, other than some improvement in drugs used to address the rejection of transplanted islet tissue. The rapidly evolving progress witnessed over the past few years with stem cell-derived islet cells, currently being used in pilot clinical studies, indicate that stem cell-derived islets will likely supplant cadaveric islets transplants very soon. Unlike cadaveric islets, an exciting advantage of stem cell-derived islet cells is that they are amenable to genetic and epigenetic modification to allow their engraftment without the need for immunosuppression, and possibly prevent the recurrence of autoimmunity. This, although at an early stage, is an avenue of translational research that is likely to lead to a permanent cure for T1D. In the meantime, T1D researchers must be adequately supplied with high quality cadaveric islets for their research, as they will continue to provide a gold-standard quality control to monitor and compare the functional maturity of stem cell-derived islet tissue.

How will competition for this very limited resource be allocated, and at what cost? DRC will continue to support peer-reviewed, innovative, and unbiased solid science to finally put an end to T1D.

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Diabetes Research

DRC’s investment in T1D cures continues! RFA 2023 is now open!

Diabetes Research Connection’s next round of type 1 diabetes (T1D) research funding has begun.  We are excited to announce that our 2023 Request for Application (RFA) period is NOW OPEN! 

We sent out notifications to hundreds of research institutes and T1D scientists around the country, encouraging all early-career investigators to submit their proposals for research grant funding.

Our investment in research is focused on innovation, and we are funding more research than ever – encouraging fresh ideas and providing the means for a new generation of diabetes investigators to go where no one else is going to solve the complex diabetes puzzle. If they have an innovative idea – we will help get it funded!

Last year alone, DRC committed to funding eleven new projects from all across the country.

We will not stop until diabetes is eliminated, and your generous contributions allow us to continue progressing forward in that goal.

If you would like to support our next group of brilliant minds committed to T1D cures, please make a gift today. Click DONATE NOW on the top right of this page.

If you are a researcher and would like to submit your proposal, click HERE.

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T1D Grant Recipients

Congratulations to our newest research grant awardees!

Join us in cheering on these new T1D researchers! 

Every year, hundreds of new T1D researchers for our prestigious research grant. This year, we were thrilled to review an impressive array of applications, each one promising a potential breakthrough. Today, it is with great joy that we announce our newest research grant awardees!

Announcing the Awardees

Context of the Research Grant

The research grant is an annual offering by our organization to support innovative minds in their journey to make significant contributions to their field. Ever wondered how life-changing discoveries come to be? It’s through such opportunities, where researchers are given the funding and support they need to explore and experiment.

Overview of the Selection Process

The selection process was a rigorous one, encompassing several rounds of reviews and interviews. It’s no walk in the park; our panel of experienced judges critically evaluated each proposal based on originality, feasibility, potential impact, and the applicant’s capability to carry out the research.

The Importance of Research Grants

Research grants are vital to advancing knowledge in various fields. They provide resources for innovators to push the boundaries of what we know and understand. It’s like giving wings to those poised on the edge of discovery. Who knows where these wings might carry them?

Future Opportunities for Aspiring Applicants

Are you intrigued by the accomplishments of our awardees and inspired to create your own wave in your field of interest? We encourage you to apply in the future. Remember, the world of innovation and discovery is always ripe with opportunities, like a tree laden with fruit waiting to be picked.


We congratulate our newest t1d researchers who won grants once again. Their passion, creativity, and dedication to their respective fields are indeed inspiring. As we look forward to the fruits of their research, we remain committed to fostering innovation and nurturing talent through our annual research grants. After all, who knows? The next game-changing discovery could be just an application away!


  1. How can I apply for the research grant?
    • Details about the application process will be published on our website during the application period.
  2. What are the eligibility criteria for the research grant?
    • The criteria may vary annually, but typically, we look for innovative, impactful proposals and capable applicants.
  3. How are the research grant awardees selected?
    • The awardees are chosen through a rigorous selection process involving multiple rounds of reviews and interviews.
  4. Can international applicants apply for the research grant?
    • Yes, our research grant is open to international applicants.
  5. When is the next application period?
    • The dates for the next application period will be announced on our website.

We look forward to following their progress.

Look for future emails that will highlight their projects in more detail.

Diabetes Pledge

For questions or information on other ways to give such gifts via stock or donor-advised funds, contact Christine Rhoads at crhoads@diabetesresearchconnection.org.

All gifts to DRC are 100% tax-deductible.  DRC is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization / Tax ID#90-0815395.


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Nigel Calcutt

Research Findings May Provide Answers to Diabetes Complication of Peripheral Neuropathy

Approximately half of the people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy—weakness, numbness, and pain, primarily in the hands and feet.  New discoveries by a team of researchers at Salk Research Institute may provide a new way to identify people at high risk for peripheral neuropathy and a potential treatment option.

Read here for more information on this study, authored by a distinguished team of researchers, including senior researcher and Diabetes Research Connection founder and board member                     Nigel Calcutt.

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Genetics in T1D

DRC’s Take on, “The type 1 diabetes gene TYK2 regulates βcell development and its responses to interferon-α”

Understanding TYK2: The Diabetes Gene

Role of TYK2 in Human Genome

In the intricate world of our genome, the TYK2 Diabetes Gene (Tyrosine Kinase 2) gene holds a special place. This gene is part of a larger family known as the Janus kinase (JAK) family. But why does it matter, you ask? Well, it’s because this gene has a significant role in signaling pathways that control our body’s immune responses and inflammation.

Introduction to Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a condition that affects millions worldwide. An autoimmune disease, it occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing β-cells in the pancreas, leading to a significant reduction or complete stop in insulin production.

TYK2 and Its Relation to Type 1 Diabetes

Studies have shown a strong correlation between variations in the TYK2 gene and the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. But the mystery doesn’t stop there. There’s more to the story.

β-Cell Development: A Closer Look

The Importance of β-Cells

β-cells, the little heroes of our story, are responsible for producing insulin in our bodies. Without them, glucose regulation becomes a tough battle. Understanding their development and survival is critical for tackling diabetes.

How TYK2 Impacts β-Cell Development

Recently, researchers have uncovered that the TYK2 gene regulates β-cell development. TYK2 variations may influence how these cells grow and function, potentially impacting insulin production and, by extension, glucose regulation.

Interferon-α and its Significance

What is Interferon-α?

Interferon-α (IFN-α) is a type of protein produced by our bodies in response to viral infections. However, it plays a dual role—it can also stimulate autoimmune responses, like those seen in type 1 diabetes.

How Does TYK2 Influence the Responses of β-Cells to Interferon-α?

It turns out that the TYK2 gene has a hand in how β-cells respond toInterferon-α. Alterations in the gene may affect how these cells react to this protein, potentially exacerbating the autoimmune destruction seen in type 1 diabetes.

Recent Discoveries and Advancements

The field of genetics is always advancing, and with new research, we’re beginning to better understand the relationship between the TYK2 gene, β-cell development, and responses to Interferon-α. But like any good novel, each answer only leads to more questions.

Implications for Treatment and Management

Potential Breakthroughs

If we can decode the complex interactions between the TYK2 gene, β-cells, and Interferon-α, we might be able to pave the way for innovative treatments for type 1 diabetes. Imagine being able to modulate gene functions to restore normal β-cell growth or protect these cells from autoimmune attacks!

Future Prospects

Though we’re still at the beginning stages, the future looks promising. Understanding the role of the TYK2 gene in β-cell development and response to Interferon-α could potentially revolutionize our approach to managing type 1 diabetes.


In conclusion, the TYK2 gene represents an important piece of the complex type 1 diabetes puzzle. By gaining insight into the gene’s role in β-cell development and response to Interferon-α, we edge closer to a future where type 1 diabetes might be better managed, or perhaps even cured.


  1. What is the TYK2 gene?
    The TYK2 gene belongs to the Janus kinase (JAK) family and plays a crucial role in immune responses and inflammation.
  2. How does the TYK2 gene relate to Type 1 diabetes?
    Variations in the TYK2 gene have been linked to the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The gene also appears to regulate β-cell development and influence their responses to Interferon-α.
  3. What are β-cells?
    β-cells are cells within the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin, a hormone crucial for glucose regulation.
  4. What is Interferon-α (IFN-α)?
    Interferon-α is a protein produced by the body in response to viral infections. It can stimulate autoimmune responses, contributing to conditions like type 1 diabetes.
  5. How could understanding the TYK2 gene influence future treatments for Type 1 diabetes?
    By understanding the TYK2 gene’s role in β-cell development and response to Interferon-α, researchers may be able to develop new treatments to protect β-cells, encourage normal growth, and manage autoimmune responses in Type 1 diabetes.


Over the years, researchers investigating type 1 diabetes have identified many genes associated with onset of the autoimmune disease. One of those genes is TYK2, which codes an enzyme (a Janus kinase) that plays a crucial role in intracellular signaling. In a study published recently in Nature Communications, a research team led by Timo Otonkoski at Helsinki University Hospital directed TYK2 knockout human iPSCs into the pancreatic endocrine lineage to decipher a dual role of the candidate gene TYK2 in pancreatic β-cells. First, depletion of TYK2 during early islet development affected the endocrine commitment, but did not affect the functionality of mature beta cells. Second, TYK2 inhibition in mature islet cells reduced vulnerability to T-cell cytotoxicity. These results identify an unsuspected role for TYK2 in β cell development and support TYK2 inhibition in adult β-cells as a potent therapeutic target to halt T1D progression.

Click HEREto read the full article.

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Diabetes Research

DRC Is Excited to Share This Breaking T1D News Announced Yesterday by the FDA

The FDA has just approved Provention Bio’s Tzield™ (teplizumab-mzwv) – the first drug therapy that can delay the onset of type-1 diabetes (T1D) for those at risk of developing the disease.  This is a huge milestone for T1D research and those in the T1D community. (Read the full FDA announcement HERE.)

The average delay in the onset of T1D observed in the clinical study of Tzield was approximately 3 years, with some study participants not yet acquiring type 1 diabetes at all.  “Today’s FDA decision gives people at risk of developing type 1 diabetes the gift of time,” said Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., JDRF CEO. “For the first time ever, we have a way to change the course and slow the development of T1D.”  (Read JDRF’s full statement on the impact of this news to the T1D community HERE.)

Tzield is the result of decades of T1D research, which began with an early scientific study.  That study led to a JDRF grant to support a trial in patients.  The success of that trial study led to further studies and support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), eventually leading to this exciting breakthrough that will impact the future of T1D treatment.

Scientific breakthroughs such as this one, often emerge due to the inventiveness of early-career scientists.  It is DRC’s mission to connect donors with early-career scientists, enabling them to perform peer-reviewed, novel research designed to prevent and cure type 1 diabetes, minimize its complications, and improve the quality of life for those living with the disease.

Thus far, 10+ of our funded studies by early-career scientists have secured follow-on funding to continue their studies which could lead to breakthroughs like the milestone announced today.

You could help fund the next T1D breakthrough!  DONATE HERE 

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Connecting for a Cure DRC

November 2022 Newsletter

Let’s be honest. With the hectic pace of life, you might wonder why you should spend your precious time reading a newsletter, especially one about diabetes research. But have you ever paused to consider the impact this information can have on you or someone close to you? Let me explain why you should read the November 2022 Newsletter from the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), a charitable organization dedicated to advancing diabetes research.

Understanding Diabetes Research Connection (DRC)

The DRC is not just a charity; it’s a bridge connecting innovative researchers, passionate donors, and individuals affected by diabetes. Its mission? To conquer the global challenge of diabetes through research.

Importance of Reading DRC’s November 2022 Newsletter

This particular newsletter from November 2022 is a treasure trove of information. Let’s take a closer look at what you might find.

Updates on Latest Research Findings

The field of diabetes research is fast-paced. The newsletter covers new developments, ensuring you stay informed about advancements that could transform lives.

Success Stories of Research Grant Beneficiaries

It’s not all facts and figures. The newsletter features real stories from researchers whose work has been made possible by DRC’s funding.

Opportunities for Community Engagement

Community engagement is at the heart of the DRC. Through the newsletter, you’ll discover opportunities to get involved and make a difference.

Deep Dive into the November 2022 Newsletter

This section delves deeper into what you can expect from the specific November 2022 edition.

Highlighted Research Studies 

Impact of Breakthrough Research 

The newsletter highlights cutting-edge studies with the potential to revolutionize the understanding and treatment of diabetes.

Testimonies from Diabetes Patients

Importance of Patients’ Voices

The personal stories from those living with diabetes provide a crucial perspective often missing in academic research.

Upcoming Events and Fundraisers

Why Your Participation Matters 

The newsletter promotes upcoming events and fundraisers, giving youthe chance to take part in the fight against diabetes.

The Value of Supporting DRC and Diabetes Research 

You might ask, “Why does this matter to me?” Well, let’s break it down.

The Role of Public Support in Advancing Research 

Public involvement is not just desirable—it’s necessary. The backing of the community propels research efforts, making breakthroughs possible.

How Donations Drive Impact

Your support, be it financial or through participation in events, fuels the very research that could improve, or even save, countless lives.


In conclusion, the DRC’s November 2022 Newsletter offers more than just an update—it’s a testament to the power of research, the strength of community, and the hope for a future free from diabetes. You’re not just reading a newsletter; you’re becoming a part of a mission that can change lives. Now, isn’t that a compelling reason to give it a read?


  1. What is the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC)?
    • The DRC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding research aimed at preventing, curing, and better managing diabetes.
  2. Why should I read DRC’s November 2022 Newsletter?
    • The newsletter offers insights into the latest research findings, success stories, and ways you can contribute to the fight against diabetes.
  3. What kind of research does DRC fund?
    • The DRC funds innovative, early-career scientists pursuing research in all forms of diabetes.
  4. How can I support DRC?
    • You can support DRC through donations, participation in fundraising events, or by spreading the word about their work.
  5. Where can I access DRC’s November 2022 Newsletter?
    • The newsletter is available on DRC’s official website, and you can also subscribe to receive future newsletters via email.

Please enjoy this month’s newsletter, featuring:

        • Researchers Impacting Our Mission
        • November’s Matching Gift Campaign
        • Meet Our New Executive Director
        • DRC’s Seaside Silent Auction
        • Thank You to Our Sponsors!



View the Newsletter here

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Diabetes Eye

For the Good of Neural Tissues and Pancreatic Islets

While organs can be transplanted from deceased donors, tissues from the nervous system rapidly lose viability. The mechanisms of neuronal death, and the potential for reversing it, remain poorly defined. Dr. Fatima Abbas, a DRC-funded investigator at the University of Utah, in collaboration with Dr. Frans Vinberg (University of Utah) and Dr. Anne Hanneken (The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA), published a paper in Nature that questions the irreversibility of neuronal cell death in the retina, an investigation that has implications for visual rehabilitation and for the future of organ transplantation. In the study, the researchers characterized neuronal death and survival and identified conditions for reviving neuronal functioning in postmortem mice and human retinas. This study is a step toward better strategies for preserving the viability and engraftment capability of tissues and cells isolated from organ donors for transplantation, including the pancreas. Given the significant overlap of genes and proteins between pancreatic islet cells and neural tissues, the findings by Abbas and colleagues may have important implications for the improvement of islet cell transplant engraftment and long-term function in type 1diabetics.

Click HERE to read the full article.

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Diabetes Research

DRC’s Take: Vertex to Acquire Chief T1D Stem Cell Competitor in All-Cash Deal

Vertex, whose VX-880 stem cell therapy for type 1 diabetes has cleared clinical proof of concept, is acquiring ViaCyte, a private biotech that has also reached clinical trials with its own stem cell therapy. In the $320 million all-cash deal, Vertex will acquire ViaCyte’s human stem cell lines, manufacturing facilities, and other relevant intellectual property.

While both companies are pursuing stem cell-based approaches to treating type 1 diabetes, their methods differ. The Vertex therapy involves injecting synthetic islet cells into patients. By comparison, the ViaCyte therapy uses gene-edited, immune-evasive stem cells encapsulated in implantable devices.

Both companies have reported data from clinical trials.

Data released by Vertex in October 2021 showed that the first patient who received the treatment had a lower average HbA1c (8.6% to 7.2%) and a significantly reduced reliance on insulin injections. Results from a second patient have also been reported and data from additional trial participants are expected later this year or early next year. In June 2021, ViaCyte revealed that a single patient had also experienced a drop in HbA1c (7.4% to 6.6%) but still required insulin injections.

“VX-880 has successfully demonstrated clinical proof of concept in T1D, and the acquisition of ViaCyte will accelerate our goal of transforming, if not curing T1D by expanding our capabilities and bringing additional tools,” Vertex CEO Reshma Kewalramani said in a statement.

Click HERE to view the full article.

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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