DRC & Research News

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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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Peer-Reviewed, Innovative Type 1 Diabetes Research Being Done By Promising New Scientists

TDRC-logo_no-tagWritten by Api Podder on September 1, 2015, via My Social Good NewsClick here to read original article.

San Diego, CA, September 1, 2015 – One of every hundred Americans has type 1 diabetes (T1D). Millions of children and adults struggle with this autoimmune disease. Yet, funding has decreased for research to prevent, cure, and better manage the disease. Of the funding available, 97% goes to established scientists. Early-career scientists are often the source of radical new ideas but have difficulty finding money to support them, forcing many to leave the field of diabetes research.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) created a platform which connects donors directly with early-career scientists, enabling them to perform research designed to prevent and cure T1D, minimize its complications, and improve the quality of life for those living with the disease.

Scientists submit their projects to a panel of over 80 leading diabetes experts who review it for innovation, feasibility, value, and achievability. As established scientists, DRC’s panel of experts donates their time and expertise to encourage the next generation of diabetes investigators to push the envelope.

The time from application to funding can be as little as 12 weeks, compared to 18 months for many research grants. In 2015, 100% of research funds go directly to the scientists’ lab. To ensure transparency, each researcher provides updates on their project, posting final outcomes on DRC’s website.

Alberto Hayek, M.D., co-founder and president of the Diabetes Research Connection and world-renowned diabetes expert believes that the lack of funding for early, discovery-stage projects is one of the biggest problems in research. “With DRC, we are giving scientists the resources to test and validate research that departs from conventional thinking, because the opportunity to pursue new paths is when and where breakthroughs occur,” says Hayek.

Dr. Todd Brusko from the University of Florida received $50,000 through DRC to begin working on his project titled, “Can we engineer a patient’s immune cells to stop the autoimmune attack that causes T1D?”

“In six months, my project has made remarkable progress. My lab isolated and expanded a rare population of regulatory T cells (Tregs) to a level that appears to thwart the autoimmune attack when the Tregs are re-infused into type 1 diabetes patients. I teamed up with biomaterial engineers to create nanoparticles which carry the necessary growth factors. Together we found a way to link these particles directly to the surface of the Tregs. My next step is to determine whether these cells are effective at preventing autoimmune disease in animal models,” says Brusko.

Ph.D. candidate, Kristin Mussar, from the University of Washington received $54,000 through DRC to begin working on her project titled, “Creating new insulin-producing cells to repair the damaged pancreas.” 
“No other lab in the United States is currently researching macrophages to determine if this type of white blood cell, typically involved in fighting off viruses or colds, may help repair pancreatic beta cells. If successful, my project may lead to finding a molecule or drug that can be given to T1D patients to help them restore their body’s natural ability to produce insulin,” says Mussar.

DRC was established in 2012 by five tireless proponents of diabetes research. Dr. Alberto Hayek, emeritus professor from the University of California and Scientific Director at Scripps/Whittier Diabetes Institute in San Diego; Doctors Nigel Calcutt and Charles King, diabetes research scientists affiliated with the University of California; David Winkler, an attorney, entrepreneur and venture philanthropist who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, and Amy Adams, a writer and business owner whose son has lived with type 1 diabetes for most of his life.

“As someone who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years, and who has other family members and friends who have diabetes, I know firsthand how this disease impacts a person’s life and the lives of those around him or her,” says Winkler.

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DRC Aiding Research By Early-Career Diabetes Scientists

TDRC-logo_no-tagWritten by Jennifer Poland on September 2, 2015, via Bio TuesdaysClick here to read original article.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) has created a platform, which connects donors directly with early-career scientists, enabling them to perform research designed to prevent and cure Type 1 diabetes, minimize its complications, and improve the quality of life for those living with the disease.

9.4ArticleImageCurrently, 97% of available funding goes to established scientists. Early-career scientists are often the source of radical new ideas but have difficulty finding money to support them, forcing many to leave the field of diabetes research, according to DRC.

Scientists submit their projects to a panel of over 80 leading diabetes experts who review it for innovation, feasibility, value, and achievability. The time from application to funding can be as little as 12 weeks, compared with 18 months for many research grants.

In a statement, Dr. Alberto Hayek, co-founder and president of DRC and a world-renowned diabetes expert, said the lack of funding for early, discovery-stage projects is one of the biggest problems in research.

“With DRC, we are giving scientists the resources to test and validate research that departs from conventional thinking, because the opportunity to pursue new paths is when and where breakthroughs occur,” he added.

Learn More +

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