The number of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) continues to increase. Researchers estimate that by 2050, this number may reach 5 million. Ongoing efforts to prevent, treat, and cure type 1 diabetes aim to reduce the impact. One area that researchers are delving into is the study of gut bacteria.
When an individual has T1D, their white blood cells destroy insulin-producing beta cells that regulate blood sugar. Scientists have discovered that gut bacteria share similar molecular markers with these beta cells. These similarities may stimulate more attacks on insulin-producing beta cells thereby increasing risk of T1D.
Ningwen Tai, Ph.D., associate research scientist at Yale Diabetes Center, has teamed up with other scientists to study this occurrence more closely. The researchers are particularly interested in Fusobacteria, which they believe appear in greater quantities in individuals prone to developing T1D. Their study began by examining the presence of Fusobacteria in mice and monitoring levels as diabetes risk increased.
Now they want to roll out this study to humans and explore whether tracking the level of Fusobacteria can predict the onset of diabetes. The study will analyze oral and fecal samples from individuals with T1D, as well as those at high risk and healthy individuals. These samples will be collected and studied over the course of a year or more.
If the Fusobacteria does accurately predict development of T1D, this could lead to targeted approaches for treatment and prevention. This would impact not only those with T1D, but also individuals who are at risk for developing the disease. Doctors would be able to monitor the progression and take steps to counteract the impact of the gut bacteria.
The Diabetes Research Foundation is proud to support this research initiative by helping Dr. Tai and his team to raise necessary funds. It is through ongoing research that scientists advance their understanding of T1D and can be more aggressive regarding diagnosis, treatment, and prevention efforts. Click here to support Dr. Tai’s study on gut bacteria.