DRC & Research News

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

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Early Biomarker for Pancreatic Beta Cell Loss Related to Type 1 Diabetes Identified.

For years, researchers have known that pancreatic beta cell death plays a major role in the development of type 1 diabetes. They have been striving to detect this process early on in order to better assess risk for the disease and develop potential treatments to stop progression. When the body destroys insulin-producing beta cells, it is no longer able to effectively manage blood glucose levels resulting in type 1 diabetes (T1D), a condition that currently has no cure.

In a recent study, researchers used diabetic mice and serum samples from individuals with various stages of T1D as well as INS-1 cells and human islets “to detect an early biomarker of T1D-associated beta-cells loss in humans.” The enriched microRNA (miR-204) that they discovered is released by beta cells during cell death and is detectable in human serum. However, it is only present in elevated levels in individuals with T1D and those who are autoantibody positive, not in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

This discovery may play a role in improving early detection of pancreatic beta cell death prior to full onset of T1D. In turn, that may open doors to new research and developments in treatment in order to reduce risk of T1D.

Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see what this discovery could mean for the future of T1D diagnoses and prevention efforts. The DRC supports early career scientists in pursuing novel, peer-reviewed research projects focused on the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and eventual cure of type 1 diabetes. Learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Could Reprogramming Cells Help Treat Type 1 Diabetes?

More than 300 million people around the world are living with diabetes. Currently, there is no cure, but scientists are continually researching and testing different methods for treating and managing this disease. One of the major obstacles faced in treating type 1 diabetes is that the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells, whether these cells are naturally occurring or introduced through medical treatment.

Some researchers are looking at ways to reprogram the body’s own cells to function as insulin-producing cells to help better control blood sugar. The human pancreas contains small niches where hormone-making cells reside. Within these niches, two different cells predominate: alpha cells, which make glucagon, and beta cells, which make insulin. In individuals with type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing cells are destroyed, but glucagon cells are not.

Scientists developed a method using viruses as carriers to deliver two genes that are present in insulin but glucagon cells to the glucagon cells allowing the cells to be able to produce insulin. Glucagon cells are a good option for this process because they are similar to insulin cells and appear in abundance in islets within the pancreas already. A decrease in these cells as they were reprogrammed did not appear to affect glucose metabolism.

These experiments have been performed in NOD mice, which are mice that develop diabetes very close to human diabetes. Following the experiment, the diabetes disease appeared to have resolved in the diabetic NOD mice thanks to the new source of cells making insulin in their pancreas. However, human application of this technique will take time since targeting specific cells is complicated, and the use of viral elements creates side effects that need to be resolved.

It is this type of research and these experiments that lead to breakthroughs in the treatment, management, prevention, and improvement in the quality of life for individuals living with type 1 diabetes. Though not involved in this particular study, the Diabetes Research Connection supports early-career scientists through funding for novel research on type 1 diabetes. Learn more about current projects and support their advancement by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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