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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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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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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National Tell A Story Day: A Founder’s Story

At the age of six, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t have the same energy as all the other kids did that I played with. My mom took me to the doctor and after running a few tests, the doctor says to my mom and me, “David has Type 1 Diabetes and won’t live past the age of 30”. We were devasted. Trying to comprehend and make sense of what my diagnosis actually meant at age 6 was impossible. There were no support systems in place back then. Not for me and not for my family.

It was 1960 and the management of T1D was in the “Stone Age”. I remember having to sharpen my own needles at home with a grinding stone, so I could inject myself with animal insulin that gave me horrible welts, it was extremely painful. To monitor my blood sugar, my mom would drive me to the hospital once a quarter to test through a urine sample.

Today, my blood is tested 288 times a day through a monitor. Those needles that I had to sharpen myself, have been replaced with an insulin pen. And, I proved those doctor’s wrong, I’m now in my 60’s, well past the age of 30. While recalling my journey with this disease, I realized that the time lapse between then and now is 50 years – an entire generation.

When I think about all of the advancements that have been made, how far we have come in 50 years, I’m amazed. In one generation, Genentech discovered how to synthesize human insulin. The accuracy of glucose testing has improved drastically. Blood glucose monitors now allow us to monitor at home. While researchers have not found a cure yet, in their search for one, they have found ways to improve the lives of those of us living with this extremely difficult disease and I for one, am forever grateful.

Imagine if today, the 1.3 million people affected by this disease were still having to inject themselves with animal insulin? This is why funding research is so important and why I founded the Diabetes Research Connection. To offer hope and advancements and one day, a cure.

Find out more about the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) and how to support our efforts by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org/join-us/

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DRC-Funded Scientist Creates New Insulin-Producing Cells to Fight Type 1 Diabetes

Thanks in part to funding from the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), Dr. Kristin Mussar was able to conduct an in-depth study regarding how to stimulate the body’s own cells to create new insulin-producing cells that may help treat type 1 diabetes (T1D). In individuals with T1D, the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells, destroying them and leaving the body unable to effectively regulate blood sugar.

The human body is filled with myeloid cells that all differentiate to help grow, maintain, and repair various organs. When these cells are depleted, it impacts organ health. For instance, lack of insulin-producing cells results in diabetes. However, Dr. Mussar and her team discovered that there is a population of macrophages – white blood cells that recirculate throughout the body constantly monitoring the health status of all tissues – that instruct insulin-producing cells to grow in the perinatal stage of pancreas development. During this period of prolific growth, enough insulin-producing cells are created to support glucose homeostasis throughout one’s life.

Dr. Mussar found that there is a special population of these cells that act as cargos of potent growth factors for the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. If these cells are prevented from entering the pancreas, the growth of insulin-producing cells is arrested and diabetes ensues. This lack of cell growth, as well as cell destruction, are issues that researchers have been trying to remedy through various strategies for treating T1D.

One avenue of treatment that is being explored is finding ways to use the body’s own cells and processes to support insulin production. Current challenges in treatment include the constant monitoring and accurate dosing of insulin, as well as the use of immunosuppressants or other medications to prevent the body from destroying modified cells or specialized therapies. Using the body’s own cells can help reduce risk of immune attack or rejection.

To this effect, Dr. Mussar’s research revealed that there are precursors to these special macrophages that exist within the bone marrow of adults. When these precursors are injected into the blood stream, they are able to signal growth of insulin-producing cells. This discovery raises hopes that, by dispatching these pro-regenerative cells from the bone marrow to injured pancreatic islets, it may be possible to enhance regeneration of insulin-producing cells in individuals with type 1 diabetes. This may in turn help to stabilize blood sugar naturally using the body’s own cells.

The Diabetes Research Connection is proud to have played a role in making Dr. Mussar’s research possible by providing funding that enabled her to continue moving forward with her project and eventually get the results published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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Is a New Transplant Site the Key to a Type 1 Diabetes Cure?

The Diabetes Research Connection is proud to partner with Beyond Type 1 to accelerate the most promising efforts for a cure for Type 1 diabetes. This is one of many projects we’re excited to partner on. Gifts start at $1 and 100% of your funds designated for research go directly to the lab. To date, $8,002 of a necessary $50,000 has been raised to move forward with this idea.

Have you heard about the handful of Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) patients that went without insulin for 10 years after cell replacement therapy? Their results showed that we can restore insulin production in those with Type 1 diabetes and that a biological cure is possible.

This treatment is not available (yet) to the millions with diabetes. While it was effective for some and improved their quality of life, the issue of cell survival and need for immunosuppressants post-transplant remains. Can a new location for the islet cell BioHub or “mini-organ” remedy these issues? The liver, the site used previously, has an adequate blood supply and is an easy-to-access location; however, it is the body’s filter for toxins, so the cells are exposed to waste, which decreases their longevity.

Dr. David Baidal at DRI believes that there may be a better location for cell replacement therapy: the omentum, a layer of fatty tissue that covers the organs in the lower abdomen. Like the liver, it’s close to the surface and is also highly vascularized. The big difference is it isn’t surrounded by waste and has an even larger surface area for scientists to work with.
DRI says there have been “encouraging preliminary results in animal models have demonstrated that islets in the omentum can engraft (become lodged in the tissue, get their own vessels and start producing insulin) and improve blood glucose control.”

With approval from the FDA, a new clinical trial is now underway in humans.

The Clinical Trail

The DRI BioHub is a bioengineered mini-organ designed to mimic the pancreas. “The islets are transplanted within a fully-resorbable (biodegradable) biologic scaffold consisting of the patient’s plasma (the liquid part of the blood that does not contain cells) and human thrombin, a clotting enzyme commonly used in surgical procedures,” explains DRC.

“The biologic scaffold will serve as a platform that adheres to the omentum and holds the islets in place. The patients in this clinical trial will require the same immunosuppressive (anti-rejection) drug regimen as used in islet transplants within the liver. However, our goal at the DRI is to eliminate the need for these drugs. The development of the DRI BioHub, together with several other areas of research strategies underway at the Institute, are aimed at overcoming challenges of the immune system.”

You can fund this project directly! Researchers have raised $8,000 of a necessary $50,000 to move forward with this idea. Let’s make it happen.

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2017 Year in Review

This past year has been a year of impact at the Diabetes Research Connection. With the generosity of our supporters, we funded five innovative, peer-reviewed type 1 diabetes (T1D) projects, bringing the total to 12. Our sponsored early-career scientists developed data to show beginnings of proof of principle concepts that in turn precipitated substantial additional grants. We also had two researchers publish their work in diabetes journals.

We’re committed to keeping our community updated on all projects and DRC happenings, so we wanted to take time to share all the amazing things that happened in 2017.

In January, Jeffrey Serrill, Ph.D. at the City of Hope in Los Angeles started off the year with his project, Determining How Other Cells (Non-Beta) In The Pancreas Affect Diabetes. This is the 13th research project to launch on our website.

In March, we funded our 8th project; Peter Thompson, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, Regrowth of Beta Cells with Small Molecule Therapy.

In April, we funded our 9th and 10th research projects; Joseph Lancman, Ph.D., at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Replacement Beta-Cells From An Unexpected Source and Agata Jurcyzk, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, What is the Connection Between T1D and Depression?

In May, our 11th project was funded; Gene-Specific Models and Therapies for Type 1 Diabetes, research being conducted by Jeremy Racine, Ph.D. of The Jackson Laboratory.

In June, we partnered with the diaTribe Foundation for the 2nd annual Brews & Blood Sugar event. More than 100 people joined us to sample beer from one of San Diego’s premier breweries, to learn how different varieties of beer affect blood sugar and support efforts to find solutions for those with diabetes.

In July, DRC funding precipitated a $1M grant for one of our researchers and his lab. Joseph Lancman, Ph.D., at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute was awarded $47,000 in funding by DRC to conduct his research project titled, Replacement Beta-Cells From An Unexpected Source. The results from this project enabled his lab to secure a $1M grant from the prestigious W.M. Keck Foundation. In the researcher’s own words, “The Diabetes Research Connection, like the Keck Foundation, plays a critical role in biomedical science by supporting innovative projects that most other funding sources consider high-risk. However, these high-risk projects have high-reward potential, essential for stemming next-generation technologies.”

Also in July, DRC spoke at the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference in Orlando, Florida. CC King, Ph.D., Todd Brusko, Ph.D., and David Baidal, M.D. presented on the current trends in T1D research and provided an update on contributions made by early-career scientists.

August was a busy month for us at DRC. Two of our researchers were published for their work in diabetes research. Support by DRC enabled Wendy Yang, Ph.D., to contribute to a major study published in Cell Report. In this study, the investigators discovered that alpha-catenin, a protein that regulates cell-cell interactions and communication is a potent regulator of pancreatic islet cell development. Click here to read the full article. In addition, Kristin Mussar, Ph.D., completed her project and found evidence that macrophages, a type of white cell usually associated with infection, also play an important role in the development of the islets, where insulin is made, just before and immediately after birth. The published report shows how macrophages help islets grow indicating that selected agents may activate the cascade of proteins enhancing islet growth, an important contribution for future treatments in T1D.

Also in August, we funded our 12th project; Yo Suzuki, Ph.D., at the J. Craig Venter Institute, Needles be Gone for Type One Diabetes Patients.

In September, we launched our 14th project; David Baidal, M.D., at the Diabetes Research Institute, The Omentum as an Alternative Islet Transplant Site.

In October, we launched our 15th and 16th research projects; Ningwen Tai, Ph.D., Yale University Diabetes Center, A Bacteria in the Gut May Predict Type 1 Diabetes and Jane Kim, M.D., at Rady Children’s Hospital and the University of California, San Diego, What Type of Type 1 Diabetes Does Your Child Have?

In November and in recognition of World Diabetes Day, we were honored to have Dr. Jane Kim’s project featured by Good Morning San Diego.

In December, we launched our 17th project; Tamara Oser, M.D., Penn State College of Medicine, Using Technology to Improve Diabetes Self-Management. We also had the world record holder for being the youngest person to cross America on foot visit us in San Diego on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Noah (11yrs old) started in Key West, FL on January 1, 2017, and finished on Saturday, December 9, 2017, in Blaine, WA, approximately 4,230 miles. Noah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) when he was 16 months old and has lived with insulin shots most of his life. We were grateful to share his story on Good Morning San Diego.

This past year was important for moving research forward and adding to the field of diabetes. We could not do what we do without the continued support of our community.

 

 

 

 

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Kristin-Mussar in a labcoat

Next-Generation Scientist Publishes Research Findings

One of DRC’s funded researchers, Kristin Mussar, Ph.D., completed her project and published findings in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.  Kristin’s research project set out to create new insulin-producing cells to repair a damaged pancreas. Her research found evidence that macrophages, a type of white cell that is usually associated with infections, also plays an important role in the development of islets, where insulin is made, just before and immediately after birth. The published report shows how macrophages help the islets grow indicating that selected agents may activate the cascade of proteins enhancing islet growth, an important contribution for future treatments in type 1 diabetes. Click here to read the full report.

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