DRC & Research News

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

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Controlling Beta Cell Proliferation and Apoptosis to Manage Type 1 Diabetes

A key indicator of type 1 diabetes is lack of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. These cells are mistakenly attacked and destroyed by the immune system leaving individuals unable to naturally manage their blood sugar. With little to no production of insulin, the body cannot effectively process sugars and use them as fuel. Instead, individuals must constantly monitor their blood glucose levels and administer insulin as needed.

However, a recent study uncovered how an FDA-approved drug for treating breast cancer may also be effective in diabetes care. Neratinib is a dual inhibitor of HER2 and EGFR kinases, but researchers have also found that it is incredibly effective at blocking mammalian sterile 20-like kinase 1 (MST1) as well. MST1 plays a key role in regulating beta cell proliferation and apoptosis. By inhibiting MST1 expression, insulin-producing beta cells may be protected from this process leading to greater beta cell survival and improved function.

In addition, when mouse models and human islets were treated with neratinib, they showed a marked improvement in glucose control and maintained lower overall glucose levels. The drug also restored expression of specific transcription factors such as PDX1 that contribute to glucose metabolism and insulin production.

Neratinib is an FDA-approved cancer treatment drug currently being used for breast cancer, but its effectiveness in treating other forms of cancer is being explored as well. Now researchers are examining whether its indications could be expanded to include diabetes.  While it has been proven safe in cancer treatment, scientists are looking at ways to decrease its toxicity and improve specificity for diabetes.

In its current form, neratinib does not only target MST1 – it inhibits other kinases as well. Furthermore, there is concern that an extreme decrease in beta cell apoptosis could lead to increased expression of other cell types which could impact health. However, researchers can use this study as a foundation for exploring ways in which to refine the drug and improve beta-cell protection and function while minimizing other effects.

Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested to see how this study impacts future treatment and prevention efforts in regard to type 1 diabetes. The DRC provides critical funding to early career scientists pursuing novel, peer-reviewed research projects focused on prevention, treatment, and improvement of quality of life for individuals living with the disease. This support can lead to scientific breakthroughs and have a significant impact on understanding of type 1 diabetes. To learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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How Technology is Changing Diabetes Care and Treatment

Despite years of research and clinical trials, no cure for type 1 diabetes exists yet. However, how the disease is managed and treated has changed, leading to vast improvements in quality of life. Many individuals are better able to track their blood sugar and administer insulin more effectively to reduce instances of hypoglycemia and other complications. A recent article explores how technology has impacted current research for type 1 diabetes.

For years, researchers were focused on developing immunotherapies to try to treat T1D at its source. With this type of diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells from the pancreas. The goal was to either reverse the disease or stop it from developing in the first place. Today, researchers have shifted their focus. Instead of trying to figure out how to prevent diabetes, some scientists are working to improve how patients live with the disease. This has involved major leaps in medicine including attempts at developing an artificial pancreas system that would function similar to the body’s own pancreas to regulate blood sugar.

Over the years, researchers have experimented with a variety of immune therapies trying to find an approach that could treat diabetes without a host of unpleasant side effects. This has been a difficult process and not yet produced a significantly effective treatment. However, there have continued to be technological advances that have improved how patients manage diabetes. It is easier than ever to quickly test blood sugar, and some patients even have continuous glucose monitors that send information to their smartphone and alert to low blood sugar. There have also been many improvements in more accurate dosing and administering insulin.

In 2016, scientists made progress toward creating an “artificial pancreas” system. It combined a continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump to modulate insulin delivery based on data over time. It is not yet fully automated, however, because patients still must calculate their insulin dosage during meal times. But it did have benefits for reducing hypoglycemia overnight. This technology has opened doors for others to begin testing different approaches for creating a fully automated insulin delivery artificial pancreas system. While not a “cure” for type 1 diabetes, it could help improve management of the disease while decreasing the burden on patients.

There is still a great deal of research and work to be done before this type of treatment comes to fruition. And once it exists, there is no guarantee that every patient would choose to use it, just like not all patients choose to have continuous glucose monitors. But it would be another option that exists and could potentially have a significant impact on people’s lives.

The Diabetes Research Connection recognizes the life-changing impact that a T1D diagnosis has, and supports early career scientists in moving forward with novel research projects focused on preventing, curing, or managing type 1 diabetes. Through donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations, research funding is made possible. To learn more about current projects or make a donation, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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