DRC & Research News

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

Get the most recent diabetes research news, delivered straight to your inbox


Could Viruses Play a Role in the Development of Type 1 Diabetes?

While researchers know that type 1 diabetes involves the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells or lack of production of insulin, they are still not clear on exactly what causes type 1 diabetes to develop. A great deal of time has been devoted to studying genetics and the role it may play in T1D risk. Now scientists are exploring a different avenue – the influence of viruses on diabetes risk.

A recent study led by Professor Ronald Kahn, chief academic officer at Joslin Diabetes Center, identified four viruses that can produce insulin-like hormones. These viruses were found to “produce peptides that are similar in whole or in part to 16 human hormones and regulatory proteins.” While these viruses are found in fish and amphibians, not humans, eating fish may expose the human body to the viruses and therefore have an effect.

Scientists synthesized these peptides and conducted experiments on mice and human cells to determine how they would respond. The viral insulin-like peptides (VILPs) acted like hormones, attached to human insulin receptors, and stimulated the same signaling pathways. In addition, mice were found to have lower levels of blood glucose after being exposed to the VILPs.

According to Kahn, these research findings could lead to new studies regarding type 1 diabetes and autoimmunity. The insulin-like hormones “could be an environmental trigger to start the autoimmune reaction in type 1 diabetes.” However, there is the possibility that they could work as a protective factor as well by desensitizing the immune response.

There are more than 300,000 viruses carried by mammals, but only about 7,500 have been sequenced so far, so there is the possibility that other viruses exist that may affect human cells and T1D risk as well. This study is just the start of understanding the role of microbes in human disease according to Dr. Emrah Altindis who also works at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

The depth and breadth of understanding regarding type 1 diabetes and various aspects of the disease is expanding every day. The Diabetes Research Connection is committed to supporting peer-reviewed, novel research studies that aim to improve diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life for individuals living with T1D.  Through donations from individuals, companies, and foundations, the DRC provides funding to early career scientists to pursue innovative projects. Learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Learn More +
Type 1 Diabetes Baby

Type 1 Diabetes Originates in the Gut But Probiotics Could Offer Cure

Two separatType 1 Diabetes Babye pieces of research have found that the development of type 1 diabetes is likely caused by the gut, and therefore, a type of probiotic could be the cure.

Scientists from several European and US institutions studied 33 Finnish infants over three years from birth who were genetically predisposed to type 1 diabetes.

Their study, entitled “The Dynamics of the Human Infant Gut Microbiome in Development and in Progression toward Type 1 Diabetes” is published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

They discovered that four children in the group that developed type 1 diabetes had 25% less types of bacteria in their guts than other children.

The same four infants were also found to have more amounts of a specific bacteria that is known to trigger gut inflammation. This could be a prelude to type 1 diabetes as the bacteria causes the immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy beta cells in the pancreas that usually make insulin and monitor glucose levels.

“We know from previous human studies that changes in gut bacterial composition correlate with the early development of type 1 diabetes, and that the interactions between bacterial networks may be a contributing factor in why some people at risk for the disease develop type 1 diabetes and others don’t,” said Jessica Dunne, Director of Discovery Research at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a UK charity which funded the study.

“This is the first study to show how specific changes in the microbiome are affecting the progression to symptomatic T1D.”

By being able to understand how the community of microorganisms in our guts (known as a microbiome) and which species are absent in the gastrointestinal tracts of children, the researchers believe they can slow down the progression of type 1 diabetes.

Probiotics could be the cure for type 1 diabetes

Cornell University researchers have a similar idea, but they have been working on a treatment that involves regulating insulin by engineering the bacteria found in our guts.

Their study, entitled “Engineered Commensal Bacteria Reprogram Intestinal Cells Into Glucose-Responsive Insulin-Secreting Cells for the Treatment of Diabetes” is published in the journal Diabetes.

The scientists took a strain of bacteria known as Lactobacillus gasseri – a type of bacteria found in probiotic yoghurts – and engineered the bacteria to be able to secrete a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).

When they fed this engineered probiotic to a group of diabetic rats for 90 days, they discovered that the bacteria triggered the upper intestinal epithelial cells in the rats to convert into cells that acted a lot like the pancreatic beta cells.

The rats had up to 30% lower high blood glucose than diabetic rats that did not receive the probiotic, and the probiotic was shown to reduce glucose levels in diabetic rats the same way the levels would be reduced in normal rats.

“The amount of time to reduce glucose levels following a meal is the same as in a normal rat… and it is matched to the amount of glucose in the blood. It’s moving the centre of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine,” said John March, professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University and the paper’s senior author.

The next step for March and his team is to prove that their method of engineering bacteria to move insulin production to the intestine will work in humans too.

They aim to develop a pill that patients suffering from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can take daily, that will be available within the next two years.


To learn how you can get more involved in the DRC’s research projects visit: Support a Diabetes Research Project





Learn More +


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