DRC & Research News

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

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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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Connect For A Cure: June 2020 Newsletter

The importance of research has been highlighted during this pandemic and our early-career scientists continue their ground-breaking, peer-reviewed research. Since November, we’ve funded 8 new research projects. Thank you for your support and for being a part of the DRC community.

Click on the link below to read more about what we’ve been up to and the impact we are making together. It takes a community to connect for a cure!

June 2020 Newsletter

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Arielle Schube World Diabetes Story

My story began during the summer of 2016, the summer before my freshman year of high school. In July, I went to camp for three weeks in San Bernardino, California. The first week of camp I went on a four-day hiking trip to Sedona, Arizona in 100-degree weather. During the hiking trip, I felt a slight cold coming on, I assumed it was from heat and physical exhaustion. When I returned to camp after the hiking trip, I found myself in my own personal hell. At night, I lay on the cold, bathroom floor tile because my body was too hot for my bed and I was too weak to climb down from the top bunk every time I felt the urge to throw up. I could not take it anymore. I dragged myself to the nurse’s office and begged the nurse to take me to a hospital. After hours of convincing the camp nurse that something serious was happening to me, she finally agreed to take me down the mountain to the local hospital.

Not only was I screaming and moaning the entire drive down because the pain endured, but I was also experiencing small blackouts. By the time all the blood tests were completed, I was barely conscious. Soon, a doctor approached me and said, “You have type 1 diabetes.” I looked at him, then my counselor, and then the doctor again. I almost wanted to laugh and say, “What? This is a joke, this isn’t happening, right?” Then I looked at my counselor and said, “Where are my parents?”

The only memory I have after the doctor gave me the devastating news is lying in a helicopter with paramedics on either side of me. I spent the next five days in the hospital, the first two days in the ICU. When I was diagnosed, I was in a diabetic coma. I had Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious life-threatening complication of diabetes where the body produces excess ketones and if left untreated, can be fatal. My blood sugar was over 800 mg/dL and my blood tests showed that I’d been living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) for three months prior to my diagnosis. At the age of 13 years old I advocated for myself, for my life and for my future. If I did not have the will to fight, it is very likely that I would not be here today. My near-death experience has changed my life and will continue to shape my daily actions, thoughts and feelings. My desire to live life to the fullest and courage to speak publicly about my disease is what motivates me every day to push through the difficult days living with T1D.

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The Story of a Combat Veteran Making a Difference in the T1D Community – Naithen Schirmer

Today is a day we honor all veterans and give thanks for their sacrifice. As a combat veteran, I know firsthand the sacrifices made daily by those who serve or have served. When I was a young boy, I would sit around and listen to the men in my family share their stories about their time in the military and knew that I would follow in their footsteps one day.

In 2009, I joined the Army and soon after was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. While in Iraq, I advised and assisted in training the U.S. military personnel as well as the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Special Forces in night vision special electronics, thermal imagery and tactical satellite communications.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a local Iraqi towards the end of my time there. I was at Camp Liberty in Baghdad and the U.S. was shutting down the base and handing everything over to the Iraqi’s. During my time in Iraq, I did not interact much with the local civilians, but since we were transitioning this base over, I was able to. After connecting with one man in particular, I realized that we had the same goals. Even though we came from different cultures and were very different from each other, we both wanted the same things; love, to do right by our family and keep them happy, healthy and safe. Finding a connection like this in the middle of a war zone was rare and something I will always remember.

After four years of service with the storied 1st Infantry Division, aka the Big Red One, I was medically retired and pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Point Loma Nazarene University. My heart for service did not end with the military. After graduating with my degree, I began a career in the nonprofit sector. Several of my family members have diabetes so I know how devastating the disease is. Working with the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) as the Administrative Assistant is incredibly rewarding because I have an opportunity to be a part of a community working hard to find a cure. The early-career scientists I have the pleasure of working with at DRC have innovative research ideas and it gives me hope that their scientific breakthrough may be what leads to a cure for my family members and all those affected by type 1 diabetes.

Being involved in the community is important to me so I also volunteer my time at the Veterans of Foreign War as a Junior Vice Commander, a mentor to children of military personnel who have either died in combat or due to PTSD-related suicide while serving on active duty at a local nonprofit called Active Valor, and as the Podcast Creator and Director for Triple B Adventures.

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Connect For A Cure: November 2019 Newsletter

The word is getting out, we have some exciting new research updates for you.

We had a record number of early-career scientists submit their research project proposals for funding this year. You can view the new projects in early 2020. We continue to see early-career scientists go on to do amazing things. Wendy Yang, Ph.D., was published for a second time, in the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health and as a result her DRC funded project is getting more exposure. Peter Thompson, Ph.D., one out of 20 early-career scientists DRC has supported was just given the opportunity to start his own lab in Canada.

Click on the link below to read more about what we’ve been up to and the impact we are making together. It takes a community to connect for a cure!

November 2019 Newsletter

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Connect For A Cure: May 2019 Newsletter

We’re committed to keeping our community updated. Click on the link below to read more about what we’ve been up to and the impact we are making together. It takes a community to connect for a cure!

May 2019 Newsletter

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The Untold Story of a Pediatric Endocrinologist – Dr. Alberto Hayek

Most people know me as a pediatric endocrinologist in San Diego, California. What most people do not know about me is that I was drafted into the US Army in my mid-20’s, soon after immigrating from Colombia to the US for postgraduate medical training. I was an ideal candidate to be drafted because I was young, single and a newly minted MD. I was sent to Vietnam to serve as a flight surgeon for an Army helicopter battalion.

Being the only MD for an Army flight battalion stationed in the heart of Mekong Delta put me in very close contact with all the pilots. My medical crew took care of those wounded during battle, mainly stabilizing vital signs before evacuating them to facilities for more definitive treatment. Part of my responsibilities included listening to the pilots’ private concerns because in their eyes, short of a minister, I had the capacity to understand and provide support. The rest of my time was spent caring for the many Vietnamese civilians hurt during combat operations.

I will never forget the soldiers suffering during the war or the wounded Vietnamese civilians of all ages. During the 40-plus years of medical practice after my war experiences, in a life dedicated to caring for children and their families, I have often relived an episode that touched me deeply. Civilians do not encounter the atrocities of war, but the pain of a family with an ill child confronting a difficult prognosis is akin to a missile sent from an unknown source.

In my clinical practice, I would ask each child I cared for, “If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be?” Their response was always the same, “I want a cure!” After years of receiving the same answer, I knew I had to do something different, so I went into research to try to find a cure. Witnessing the suffering of so many has profoundly impacted me which is why I cannot sit back and idly wait for a cure for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).

As a T1D researcher, I was the first to show that it was possible to culture human fetal and adult islets. While we were able to replicate beta cells in vitro, we realized that they began to change into cells that could not produce insulin. However, when we re-aggregated them, they were able to make insulin again. By this time, human stem cells were developed and promptly directed to cells able to produce insulin. Important was to re-aggregate the cells, which is what my lab found. This discovery led to its use in protocols to facilitate the potential transplantation of insulin-producing cells from stem cells into T1D patients.

I founded the Diabetes Research Connection with David Winkler because we both believe there is more to do and are committed to funding early-career scientists with novel approaches to prevent, cure and better care for those with T1D.

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Connecting For A Cure: June 2018 Newsletter

We’re committed to keeping our community updated on all projects and DRC happenings. Click on the link below to read more about what we’ve been up to this year and the impact we are making together. We believe it takes a community to connect for a cure and will continue supporting innovative scientific inquiry until diabetes is eliminated.
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Bystander T Cells May Play A More Active Role in Managing Type 1 Diabetes

There are many types of cells that all play a different role in how the body works. Some of these cell functions are very well known, while others are still somewhat mysterious. For years, scientists have thought that bystander T cells were just that – bystanders, since it was unclear what their exact purpose was. A team of researchers led by Matthias von Herrath, M.D., a professor in the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology’s Division of Developmental Immunology and a diabetes researcher, may have shed more light on what these cells actually do.

von Herrath and his team found that while the initial belief was that bystander T cells increased inflammation associated with type 1 diabetes and the destruction of insulin-producing islet cells, they may actually do quite the opposite. They found that these cells interfere with the destruction of pancreatic beta cells rather than supporting it. CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CLTs) target specific protein fragments in islet cells and then destroy the cells. During this process, the pancreata are flooded with other T cells that do not detect protein fragments, which are referred to as the bystander T cells.

New studies by von Herrath and his team have discovered that in mouse models, the bystander T cells actually have an immunosuppressive effect and decrease the effect of cell-killing CLTs. When mice were injected with equal amounts of cell-killing and bystander CLTs, the researchers found that there was “little cell death, and the specific CLTs recruited to the pancreas became less harmful.” When decreased amounts of bystander cells were injected, there was more cell destruction as well as the occurrence of diabetes symptoms including hyperglycemia. Two possible theories are that bystander T cells limit access to beta cells as they flood the cell protecting them from cell-killing CLTs, or possibly that the bystanders interfered with the signals sent to cell-killing CLTs, so, therefore, the destruction is not as severe.

The study demonstrates that regulatory T cells are not the only cells that help counteract inflammation, though they are the most widely recognized for having this effect. With this new insight into bystander T cells, researchers may be able to leverage them in future treatment for type 1 diabetes. Additional research is necessary to explore this potential.

The Diabetes Research Connection, for which von Herrath is a member of the Scientific Review Committee, is committed to supporting novel research studies for type 1 diabetes. The DRC provides funding to support early career scientists in carrying out research projects geared toward preventing and curing type 1 diabetes as well as minimizing complications and improving quality of life for those living with the disease. Learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Breaking Down the Prevalence of Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes affects people of all ages and races throughout the United States, but just how many people are impacted? According to a self-report study of 33,028 adults with a response rate of 54.3%, approximately 21 million adults (8.6%) in the United States were living with type 2 diabetes in 2016, and approximately 1.3 million (0.55%) were living with type 1 diabetes.

The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked participants a variety of questions regarding being diagnosed with diabetes and what methods were used to manage it. Responses were classified as type 1, type 2, or “other” type of diabetes. There were 182 participants who reported having type 1 diabetes but did not claim to take any type of insulin, so they were categorized as type 2 respondents. Out of the 33,028 participants, 3,519 reported having diabetes, and 211 of those reported having type 1 diabetes. The study also found that T1D was more prevalent in men than women (0.64% vs. 0.46%), and as well as in non-Hispanic whites versus Hispanics (0.67% and 0.22% respectively).

Study authors hope that “knowledge about national prevalence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes might facilitate assessment of the long-term cost-effectiveness of public health interventions and policies aimed at improving diabetes management and help to prioritize national plans for future type-specific health services.”

Though it may seem like a small percentage who have T1D, it is still more than a million people who struggle each day with this disease, and more than a million people who would benefit from advanced research and treatment options. The Diabetes Research Connection seeks to further knowledge, research, and interventions regarding type 1 diabetes as well and supports novel research studies focused on this condition. Early career scientists can receive valuable funding through the DRC to support their research projects. Check out the current studies and support these efforts by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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