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An Important Talk About The Importance Of Diabetes Awareness

Original article published by The Huffington Post. Click here to read the original article.

National Diabetes Awareness Month is right around the corner, and it brings up the concern regarding how huge of an issue diabetes really is. A spokesperson from Diabetes Research Connection has agreed to answer some questions regarding Type 1 diabetes and the research that is being conducted to understand this autoimmune disease more.

1. Can you tell us a little more about type 1 diabetes; how is it different from type 2?

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a chronic autoimmune disease, like multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. T1D is the result of the human immune system mistaking the body’s beta cells, which produce insulin, for foreign cells and destroys them. These beta cells produce insulin in response to elevated blood sugar levels. A person with T1D must constantly test his or her blood sugar and inject insulin or use an insulin pump to normalize blood glucose levels. Currently, there is no known cure for T1D.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is much more common than T1D. While the causes for T2D aren’t fully understood, excess weight, inactivity, age and genetics contribute to the development of this disease. Patients with T2D make insulin, but their cells can’t respond to it adequately. In some cases, T2D can be controlled by exercise, diet and weight loss.

Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, amputations, nerve damage and other complications. This is why the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) supports research designed to prevent, cure and better the disease.

2. Explain to us what you do to research Type 1 Diabetes.

DRC is a nonprofit organization headquartered in San Diego, California. Established in 2012, DRC’s mission is to connect donors with early-career scientists enabling them to perform peer-reviewed, novel research designed to prevent and cure T1D, minimize its complications and improve the quality of life for those with the disease.

Researchers from across the country submit a grant application to members of DRC’s Scientific Review Committee, which is comprised of over 80 of the leading U.S. diabetes experts. Each research proposal is carefully scrutinized for innovation, value and feasibility.

Approved projects receive up to $50,000 in as few as 12 weeks. 100% of funds go directly to each scientist’s lab. To ensure transparency, each investigator provides updates to donors on their project. Final outcomes are posted on DRC’s website. This openness informs the research community of credible, new science. Research redundancy is less likely to occur, resulting in donated and government funds being used more efficiently.

3. There is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes, but do you think that could change anytime soon?

The discovery that insulin injections could treat T1D almost 100 years ago is the seminal finding and access to insulin is a daily necessity for people with this disease. There are a number of current research efforts to improve how external insulin is given in order to most closely control blood glucose levels, andthat is perhaps the most exciting area of medical research in our future. There are also many scientists working on preventing the onset of T1D or curing it after is has developed. Cells that can replace those lost in T1D and T2D are now a reality in several laboratories worldwide. It may be possible to create a new type of beta cell supply derived from stem cells. By using gene splicing, engineered beta cells may avoid rejection by the immune system. This futuristic approach has tremendous potential providing that the protein responsible for the immune attack to beta cells is identified, successfully targeted and silenced. Lastly, these designer cells should perform as intended without adverse side effects. A clinical trial has begun using human beta cells derived from embryonic stem cells and implanted under the skin in protective capsules to avoid their immune rejection.”

4. What are some of the greatest breakthroughs your scientists have had on a project?

Todd Brusko, Ph.D., from the University of Florida, completed his project, “Engineering Immune Cells To Stop Autoimmune Attacks” in December of 2015. The goal of his DRC supported project was to create a technology platform that would enable an optimized Treg cell (a specialized set of white cells that appear to interfere with the immune damage to beta cells) therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. Therefore, Dr. Brusko set out to manufacture biodegradable nanoparticles that would release a Treg growth and survival factor binding to Treg cell surfaces. In animal experiments, his initial data supports the notion of improved engraftment and function. These findings offer critical proof-of-principle data that is closely watched by those with T1D because it addresses an important hurdle that must be overcome for a cure. If successful, this method will increase the number of protective cells which can help prevent further destruction of remaining beta cells.

Kristin Mussar, Ph.D. Candidate, from the University of Washington, completed her project, “Creating New Insulin-Producing Cells To Repair Damaged Pancreas” in August of 2016. In her project, Mussar identified a population of white cells called macrophages residing in the pancreas of newborns that is necessary for islet cells to expand in number as well as to mature into functional insulin-producing cells. Mussar found that a functionally similar population capable of boosting islet proliferation exists in the bone marrow of adult individuals, which suggests that there might be potential for islet repair in adults. The lab Mussar conducts her research in is currently investigating whether this bone marrow population can be used as a cell therapy to enhance the repair process of islet cells in adult mouse models of injury. This project is important because it has identified a different set of white blood cells that may allow the proliferation of insulin producing cells in the pancreas of diabetic patients, offering hope for a cure.

5. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, how will your organization be promoting the Cause?

We’re launching a 30-day matching gift campaign to promote our General Fund. The fund covers program costs that support our research projects, as well as operating expenses. During the Double Your Dollars for Diabetes campaign, DRC will match donations made to the fund (up to $25,000 in matching), and on Giving Tuesday, DRC will quadruple its matching contribution. In addition, we are encourage holiday shoppers to purchase gifts through the AmazonSmile Program and select DRC as their nonprofit of choice to receive a small donation from the online retailer. More information will be available on our website prior to our November 1st launch.

6. Where can people learn more about your research projects?

People can learn more about DRC and our projects by visiting our website at drcsite.wpengine.com. We encourage visitors to join the DRC family by signing up for our monthly newsletter or becoming a donor.

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Brusko headshot

Dr. Todd Brusko’s Project Fully Funded on Day 1

Welcome! Today, we are going to explore an exciting field of research, potentially game-changing for the millions living with Type 1 Diabetes. We are diving into the world of Dr. Todd Brusko and his ground-breaking research. This research, fully funded on day one with a whopping $60,000, aims to engineer a patient’s immune cells, trying to halt the autoimmune attack causing Type 1 Diabetes. Intriguing, right? Let’s delve into it!

Understanding Type 1 Diabetes with Dr. Todd Brusko

Understanding Immune System’s Role

In a nutshell, Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. But, what if we could tweak this misbehavior?

Symptoms and Complications

From frequent urination, constant hunger to blurry vision, the symptoms can be severe. If left unchecked, long-term complications such as heart disease and nerve damage can occur.

Dr. Todd Brusko and His Research

Research Background

Enter Dr. Todd Brusko. A respected figure in the field, Dr. Brusko has dedicated his career to understanding the role of T-cells in autoimmune diseases like Type 1 Diabetes.

The $60,000 Project

Backed by a strong team and fueled by a $60,000 funding that was fully pledged on day one, Dr. Brusko’s research has gained significant attention and momentum.

Can We Engineer Immune Cells?

Theoretical Background

But, how can we engineer immune cells to fight an autoimmune disorder? It’s like attempting to teach a dog not to fetch, right?

Mechanism and Research Findings

Actually, not quite. Dr. Todd Brusko’s research is based on a breakthrough concept of reengineering T-cells to prevent them from attacking the pancreas. Excitingly, early research findings are promising.

Implications of Dr. Todd Brusko’s Research

For Diabetes Treatment

Should Dr. Todd Brusko’s project succeed, it could potentially revolutionize diabetes treatment, turning it from management to cure.

For Autoimmune Disorders

And it’s not just diabetes. The implications could extend to other autoimmune disorders, offering hope to millions.

The Path Forward for Dr. Todd Brusko

Despite the excitement, the path forward is not without its challenges.

Potential Challenges for Dr. Todd Brusko

Scientific Challenges

The biggest hurdle is the scientific challenge. How do we make the immune cells stop their destructive behavior without suppressing their protective roles?

Regulatory and Ethical Challenges

Beyond the scientific obstacles, regulatory and ethical issues need careful navigation.

The Role of Funding

With research of this nature, funding plays a critical role.

Importance of Early Funding

This is where the $60,000 project comes in. Early funding, like the full pledge on day one, helps to kickstart the research and keep it going.

Crowdfunding and Medical Research

Crowdfunding, as demonstrated in Dr. Todd Brusko’s project, has become a game-changer in medical research funding.


Dr. Todd Brusko’s pioneering work is a beacon of hope for people living with Type 1 Diabetes. The road to a potential cure is fraught with challenges but backed by the unwavering support of donors, promising early results, and a dedicated research team, the prospect of engineering a patient’s immune cells to halt the autoimmune attack seems within reach.


  1. What is the main focus of Dr. Todd Brusko’s research?
    • Dr. Todd Brusko’s research focuses on engineering immune cells to stop them from attacking the pancreas, the cause of Type 1 Diabetes.
  2. How was the $60,000 project funded?
    • The $60,000 project was fully funded on its first day, demonstrating significant support and belief in Dr. Brusko’s research.
  3. What potential impact could Dr. Todd Brusko’s research have?
    • If successful, the research could revolutionize the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes and potentially other autoimmune disorders.
  4. What are the challenges ahead?
    • The challenges ahead include scientific hurdles, regulatory issues, and ethical considerations.
  5. What role does funding play in this type of research?
    • Funding is crucial in such groundbreaking research. It helps kickstart the project and sustains it throughout its course.


Donors were so excited to read about Dr. Brusko’s project, “Can we engineer a patient’s immune cells to stop the autoimmune attack that causes type 1 diabetes?” that they plunked down the whole $60,000 at The Diabetes Research Connection’s website launch party on Friday, 11/14/2014.

We are thrilled by this unexpected but welcome response to our website, and invite you to look at and consider supporting the other two meritorious and novel projects posted on our site under SUBMIT A PROJECT. Contributions of any amount are greatly appreciated. Let’s get these projects up and running!

Dr. Todd Brusko'

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Diabetes Researcher

Novel Diabetes Research

The Diabetes Research Connection is pleased to present THREE extraordinary research projects. Scientists from the University of Florida, University of Washington, and University of Michigan seek your support in order to pursue novel investigations into a cure for diabetes.
  • Dr. Todd Brusko at the University of Florida seeks funding to generate a vaccine to avert autoimmune T1D.
  • Dr. Kristin Mussar at the University of Washington seeks funding to uncover new cell replacement approaches for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
  • Dr. Corentin Cras-Méneur of the University of Michigan seeks funding to explore ways to improve pancreatic function.

Read more under Support a Project.

Diabetes Researcher

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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