DRC & Research News

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

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Type 1 Diabetes and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Those with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) are members of an exclusive club which is more vulnerable to the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), once it is contracted. Click here to learn more. We encourage you to follow the World Health Organization’s protective recommendations.

While T1D‘s are not at a greater risk of contracting the disease, it is important to take precautionary measures. These include measuring your blood glucose levels frequently and keeping them in the normal range. This will help ensure greater resistance and a faster recovery. More frequent monitoring of ketones is critical, especially if your blood glucose is elevated due to sickness, cold therapeutics containing sugar or syrup and inactivity. Steroidal decongestants are also likely to increase your blood glucose levels. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) may exhibit flu-like symptoms, which is why it is important to measure ketones with test strips available from your local pharmacy or online. Additional amounts of insulin may be required under these circumstances. Contact your physician(s) immediately if you have been exposed to the virus or have symptoms.

Be sure to stock an adequate supply (a minimum of two weeks) of all your medications. For more advice managing T1D during this pandemic, please visit: https://www.jdrf.org/coronavirus/.

For the latest updates on the global impact of COVID-19 go to: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/.

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Gestational Diabetes May Increase Risk of Type 1 Diabetes in Children

Over the years, researchers have identified a variety of potential risk factors and triggers for the development of type 1 diabetes. While they know that diabetes risk runs in families – having a parent with T1D puts children at increased risk – a recent study found that gestational diabetes may also be a risk factor. Women who develop gestational diabetes do not usually have a history of the disease, and it often resolves once they have given birth.

However, the development of this condition may put their offspring at greater risk for T1D.  The study found that when mothers had gestational diabetes, children were twice as likely to develop diabetes by age 22 than those children born to mothers without gestational diabetes. A limitation of the study was that it was unknown whether children were diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, though type 1 is more common in children.

The study involved 73,180 groups of mothers, fathers, and offspring who live in Quebec, Canada. If there was a previous history of diabetes, heart failure, or cardiovascular disease in either parent, the group was excluded from the study. Factors such as the mother’s gestational age and other maternal demographics were also adjusted for when analyzing risk and results.

Understanding the potential risk may help parents to be more alert to potential signs of diabetes in their children such as abnormal thirst, frequent urination, unusual weight loss, or fatigue if the mother experienced gestational diabetes. This can allow children to be tested and diagnosed sooner so that they can better manage their health.

Additional research is needed to address limitations of this study and also to further explore the severity of the disease in children born to a mother with gestational diabetes versus those who were not. Researchers are unclear at this point whether there is any significant difference.

It is these types of studies that stimulate new research and questions in regard to type 1 diabetes. The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) strives to provide critical funding for early career scientists so that they can carry out research related to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of T1D, as well as improving quality of life for those living with the disease. To learn more about current projects and support these endeavors, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.


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Researchers Identify Key Protein Fragment that May Trigger Type 1 Diabetes

While the basics of type 1 diabetes (T1D) have been understood for years—the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing beta cells—the reasoning behind it has remained a mystery. Researchers have yet to identify exactly why this process occurs and what causes it. They may be a step closer as a recent study shows that an altered protein fragment may be the culprit.

The human body is filled with T cells that are constantly on the lookout for foreign bodies and infected cells. When their receptors sense these problems, they activate the immune system to destroy the affected cells. Normally, any T cells with receptors for proteins that occur naturally within the body are destroyed before they make it out of the thymus. This prevents them from attacking proteins that should be in the body, which in this case are insulin proteins. But scientists believe that some may escape before this process occurs, and therefore they mistakenly trigger an attack against insulin-producing cells which in turn leads to type 1 diabetes.

Researchers took a closer look at the structures that bind T cells to insulin fragments and found a specific fragment that may activate T cells to destroy insulin-producing cells. It is known as the B:14-22 fragment. They created a molecule where all of the pathogenic T cells and protein fragments fit very tightly together, but in order to improve their connection, they altered the insulin fragments. In doing so, they found that this activated the pathogenic T cells which led to an autoimmune attack on the cells.

They found that the body naturally creates altered fragments through a process called transpeptidation. When proteins are broken apart in the cell, they are recycled and may fuse together with other protein fragments. This generates a new configuration of proteins. Researchers believe that some of these new fragments could have just the right structure to activate T cells leading to the development of type 1 diabetes.

These findings may help scientists to create more effective methods for preventing and treating type 1 diabetes. Having a better understanding of what is happening on a cellular and molecular level allows for more targeted focus on coming up with a cure.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see where this study may lead and what it could mean for future diabetes treatment. It may also stimulate new studies from other researchers building on these findings. The DRC provides critical funding to early career scientists in order to support novel research on type 1 diabetes. Empowering more research could open new doors.


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Exploring the Impact of Type 1 Diabetes on Standardized Testing

Though type 1 diabetes (T1D) can be diagnosed at any age, it is typically diagnosed in childhood. That means that thousands of children grow up and go through school while managing this disease. A recent study looked at the potential effects of T1D on standardized test scores of Danish children.

Researchers evaluated data on standardized reading and math tests from 631,620 Danish public school children in grades 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8. Of the more than 630,000 participants, 2,031 had T1D. After analyzing more than one million reading test scores and nearly 525,000 math test scores, they found that there was no significant difference in results between those children with diabetes versus those without. Adjustments were made for grade, test topics, and year, and comparisons were made both with and without adjusting for socioeconomic status. In both cases, there were no statistically significant differences in results.

It is encouraging to see that the presence of T1D has not had a major impact on standardized testing performance, at least for the Danish schoolchildren who participated in the study. T1D affects many aspects of a person’s life, and it can be difficult to effectively manage, especially for children.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) stays abreast of diverse studies that look not only at how T1D develops and is treated but also its impact on quality of life. DRC provides funding that enables early-career scientists to pursue novel research studies on all facets of the disease in an effort to advance understanding and improve outcomes.


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Could Enteroviruses Play a Role in Type 1 Diabetes?

There is no single cause of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Though scientists know that T1D involves the body destroying insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas, there is not one specific trigger. In fact, researchers believe that genetics, environment, and immunologic capability all play a role and put individuals at different risks for developing the disease.

A recent study from investigators at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has found that the presence of certain non-polio enteroviruses may impact islet autoimmunity and lead to type 1 diabetes. They looked at the abundance of these viruses in blood and stool samples from 93 Australian children. Forty-three of the children had type 1 diabetes precursor islet autoimmunity while 48 children were matched as controls.

Using an incredibly powerful viral sequencing tool, they found 129 viruses—including five enteroviruses—that were present in higher levels in children with islet autoimmunity than those in the control group. Individuals with strong immune systems tend to eliminate enteroviruses rather quickly, usually within three to four weeks. With a slower immune response, it could take up to three months.

Risk increases when these viruses spread to children’s pancreases. Scientists are exploring how they affect pancreatic islet cells and interfere with function potentially causing beta-cell destruction and type 1 diabetes. While more research is necessary to further understand the impact enteroviruses may have, these new findings help scientists to refine their studies of the disease and its development.

While not involved with this study, the Diabetes Research Connection supports novel, peer-reviewed research studies focused on the development and treatment of type 1 diabetes as well as improving quality of life for individuals living with the disease. Up to $75,000 in funding is available for early career scientists through support from individuals, corporations, and foundations.


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Oral Drug Could Help Manage A1C in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes

A major challenge for individuals living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is reaching target A1C levels. Despite careful management of the disease and regularly checking blood sugar, many people’s A1C is still higher than recommended. While individuals with type 2 diabetes have a variety of medications they can take to help manage blood sugar, those with T1D must rely on insulin.

However, that may be changing. While insulin would still be necessary, a new oral drug may help individuals with T1D to achieve target A1C levels. The drug – sotagliflozin—prevents the kidneys from reabsorbing sugar and delays the absorption of glucose in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that there is less sugar in the blood because more of it is lost through urine output. According to researchers, there was a “two-fold increase in the number of patients who reached the target A1C level while on the drug.”

In addition to achieving improved A1C levels, many participants also experienced weight loss and a decrease in the amount of insulin needed to manage their T1D. This is a major breakthrough for patients with T1D as it would be the first ever oral antidiabetic drug for the disease in the United States. Three clinical trials encompassing 3,000 participants have been conducted so far to test safety and efficacy, and the drug is slated for a vote by the FDA for approval.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to continue following this study and the potential approval of sotagliflozin as another option in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. It would give patients another resource for helping to manage this disease and its impact on their health. The DRC is committed to supporting research that improves the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of type 1 diabetes and enhances quality of life for those living with the disease. Learn more about current projects and how to contribute to critical funding by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.


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Conversion of Alpha Cells to Beta Cells in Pancreas May Help Treat Type 1 Diabetes

In individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D), the immune system erroneously destroys insulin-producing beta cells. In turn, this leads to an inability of the body to control blood sugar. As a result, individuals must monitor and adjust their blood sugar on their own using a combination of finger sticks, continuous glucose monitors (CGM), insulin pumps, or insulin injections.

However, in a recent study, researchers explored the potential of reprogramming alpha cells in the pancreas to either become or function as beta cells. They used an adeno-associated virus to administer two different transcription factors – Pdx1 and MafA – into the pancreases of diabetic mice. With the overexpression of these factors, alpha cells developed into beta-like cells.

Alpha cells are ideal for reprogramming for numerous reasons including the fact that they naturally occur in abundance in the pancreas, they already function alongside beta cells in islets, and there are no apparent negative effects on glucose metabolism from reducing alpha cell levels, among other reasons.

Upon administering the transcription factors, euglycemia was restored within two weeks and maintained for four months. In addition, glucose response improved as well. After four months, autoimmune diabetes returned. However, this sheds light on potential therapeutic approaches for treating and managing diabetes and could be used in conjunction with immunosuppression for improved insulin production and blood glucose management.

Further testing is needed to determine if this approach is as effective in human pancreatic cells as it is in mouse models, though there have been some studies involving human islets in which alpha-to-beta-cell conversion occurred.

It is these types of studies that increase understanding of T1D and potential therapeutic treatment options. The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), though not involved in this study, strives to support early career scientists in pursuing novel research studies aligned with preventing and curing T1D as well as improving quality of life for those living with the disease. DRC raises critical funds to enable these projects to move forward.


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Pumps and CGMs Help to Manage A1C Levels for Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes

A1C tests show an average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. This is important not only for helping to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes but also for managing the disease. Healthy individuals without diabetes should have an A1C level below 5.7%. For those with diabetes, a level of 7% or less while using insulin is the target and considered being well controlled. If A1C levels are higher, it may mean that changes are needed to the person’s treatment regimen.

A recent study of participants in the T1D Exchange Clinic Network found that even with high quality care, many people are still not meeting A1C goals. Out of more than 20,000 participants, only 21% of adults had an A1C below 7%, and only 17% of youth had an A1C below 7.5%. These statistics are likely to be even lower for the general U.S. population with T1D who do not participate in the T1D Exchange Clinic Network.

On a positive note, the study found that those who use continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and insulin pumps tended to have better outcomes. Since the 2010-2012 study, use of CGMs increased by 30%, and use of insulin pumps increased by 6%. Compared to non-CGM users, those who used the device had A1C levels that were about 1% lower.

Furthermore, these devices also had an impact on hypoglycemic episodes and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Only about 5% of CGM and pump users experienced severe lows compared to 7% of non-CGM users and 9% of non-pump users. CGM and pump users also had fewer incidences of DKA.

While there is still more work to be done to better control diabetes and A1C levels, the use of CGMs and insulin pumps seem to be beneficial for many individuals using them. With increased awareness and education about these options, as well as improved access, there is the potential to benefit even more individuals with T1D and help manage A1C.

The Diabetes Research Connection is always looking for new and innovative research projects to fund that support advancement in understanding T1D as well as preventing and curing this disease and improving quality of life for those living with it. Early career scientists can receive a grant ranging from $25,000 to $75,000 for their research project.


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Senescent Cells May Play Integral Role in Type 1 Diabetes

For years, the general consensus among scientists was that type 1 diabetes (T1D) was caused by the immune system erroneously destroying insulin-producing beta cells. Researchers have yet to determine exactly why the immune system reacts this way in some people but not others. A new study exploring cellular changes prior to the development of diabetes may have unlocked an important piece of the puzzle.

Research conducted by a team from the UCSF Diabetes Center has revealed that secretory senescence in some insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas may be a trigger for this massive cellular destruction. When DNA damage causes cells to malfunction and harm surrounding cells, that is when the immune system kicks in and attacks the beta cells. But researchers have found this only occurs once the senescence has become widespread. If these senescent cells are eliminated early on, it may help prevent the onset of T1D because only damaged cells would be destroyed while healthy cells would remain.

The scientists studied both mouse models and pancreatic tissue from deceased human donors with diabetes. By administering an FDA-approved second-line chemotherapy agent called ABT-199 or Venetoclax, they were able to selectively target and destroy senescent beta cells in the pancreas. In their study, only 30 percent of mice given this drug developed T1D, while 75 percent of control mice developed T1D. Furthermore, the drug did not have any direct impact on healthy beta cells or the immune system in general.

Overall, they found that the risk of developing T1D could be decreased through the use of ABT-199. Further studies are necessary to determine whether periodic administration of the drug continues to clear senescent cells and keep the disease at bay. If so, this could become a potential new treatment option in the fight against T1D.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested in seeing how this discovery plays out and impacts future diabetes research and treatment. It could open doors to new treatment therapies and approaches for decreasing the risk of T1D through early intervention. The DRC supports early career scientists in accessing critical funds to support novel research studies focused on the prevention, treatment, and cure of T1D as well as improvements in quality of life for individuals living with the disease. To learn more, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.


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Removing Senescent Beta Cells May Help Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

Through data gathered in a DRC-sponsored research project, Peter Thompson, Ph.D., was able to secure additional funding that generated the results in this paper. Researchers explored the effects of senescent beta cells – or aging cells that no longer divide – on the development of type 1 diabetes (T1D).

In individuals with T1D, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells that are necessary for regulating blood glucose levels. However, researchers have found that senescent beta cells increase B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) proteins, which in turn regulate cell death or apoptosis. By using a Bcl-2 inhibitor, researchers were able to eliminate senescent beta cells from the body which helps to stop the immune system’s destruction of insulin-producing beta cells and prevents the development of T1D.

This could be a major step forward in using the elimination of senescent beta cells as a therapeutic approach to treating or preventing T1D. More research is necessary to further explore the potential of this approach, but this study sheds new light on how the process impacts T1D and provides a greater understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is proud to have played a role in providing the initial funding to enable Dr. Thompson and his team to collect necessary data to move forward and receive additional funding for the study. The DRC empowers early career scientists to pursue novel research studies on T1D through the support of individual, corporate, and foundation donations.


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