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

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Exploring the Potential Impact of Genetics and Infection on T1D Risk

There is no clear, concise explanation for why some people develop type 1 diabetes (T1D) and others do not, or what puts some people at greater risk for the disease. The origins and triggering factors for T1D are something that scientists have been studying for decades. A recent study looks at the possible relationship between genetic risk variants and viral infections and their impact on T1D development.

In some individuals, enteroviruses may trigger or accelerate disease development. However, in others, these same viruses may stimulate a variety of protective factors. Both genetic and environmental factors come into play, and researchers are exploring how to use these findings to improve treatment and prevention of T1D.

Scientists know that the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells plays a role in disease development. Some individuals present with autoantibodies long before T1D develops, and there are still beta cells present in many people even after living with the disease for many years. Yet they are still unsure about exactly what triggers beta cell destruction.

Studies have shown that around 50 percent of T1D risk is heritable. But just because a person carries this risk, does not necessarily mean they will develop the disease. There are around 60 different loci for single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) that are associated with T1D and may contribute to risk.

Researchers believe that enteroviruses may also play a role. Many links have been found between enterovirus infections and the presence of various autoantibodies.  These infections may trigger beta cell autoimmunity in individuals who already have factors that put them at greater risk of developing T1D. By more effectively identifying individuals who have multiple risk factors, scientists may be able to create targeted antiviral treatments or preventive virus vaccines.

There is still a great deal of research to be done regarding the development of and triggers for T1D. Genetics, environment, and infection may all play a role, but their impact differs from person to person. There is also limited insight into factors such as ethnicity and gender, especially when looking at enteroviral etiology.

Though not involved with this study, the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) contributes to current bodies of research through providing critical funding for early career scientists pursuing projects related to the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and eventual cure for T1D. Scientists are learning more about the disease every day. Support these efforts by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Could Enteroviruses Play a Role in Type 1 Diabetes?

There is no single cause of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Though scientists know that T1D involves the body destroying insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas, there is not one specific trigger. In fact, researchers believe that genetics, environment, and immunologic capability all play a role and put individuals at different risks for developing the disease.

A recent study from investigators at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has found that the presence of certain non-polio enteroviruses may impact islet autoimmunity and lead to type 1 diabetes. They looked at the abundance of these viruses in blood and stool samples from 93 Australian children. Forty-three of the children had type 1 diabetes precursor islet autoimmunity while 48 children were matched as controls.

Using an incredibly powerful viral sequencing tool, they found 129 viruses—including five enteroviruses—that were present in higher levels in children with islet autoimmunity than those in the control group. Individuals with strong immune systems tend to eliminate enteroviruses rather quickly, usually within three to four weeks. With a slower immune response, it could take up to three months.

Risk increases when these viruses spread to children’s pancreases. Scientists are exploring how they affect pancreatic islet cells and interfere with function potentially causing beta-cell destruction and type 1 diabetes. While more research is necessary to further understand the impact enteroviruses may have, these new findings help scientists to refine their studies of the disease and its development.

While not involved with this study, the Diabetes Research Connection supports novel, peer-reviewed research studies focused on the development and treatment of type 1 diabetes as well as improving quality of life for individuals living with the disease. Up to $75,000 in funding is available for early career scientists through support from individuals, corporations, and foundations.


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