DRC & Research News

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

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Islet Transplantation May Have Long-Term Benefits for Type 1 Diabetes.

Islet transplantation is not a new concept, but it is one that scientists are continually trying to refine and improve. A major challenge with this procedure is rejection or destruction of the transplanted cells. However, researchers followed up with a group of 28 patients who had undergone islet transplantation and found that 10 years later, there were still lasting benefits.

A recent study looked on how patients fared a decade after receiving transplants. Fourteen of the patients received only an islet transplant, while the other 14 had a kidney graft in addition to the islet transplant. Regardless of procedure, researchers found that “28% remained completely independent of exogenous insulin” after 10 years, a slight decrease from the 39% who were independent of insulin use after five years. However, even those participants who did return to needing insulin had improved glycemic control and a lower exogenous insulin requirement than prior to transplantation. In addition, they had fewer severe hypoglycemic events.

A major factor in the effectiveness of the transplant was graft function. Those individuals who had optimal graft function maintained insulin independence longer than those who had poorer graft function. Immunosuppression was used to help support graft survival, but there were some serious adverse events as a result. In the 28 participants, there were eight instances of infections or skin carcinomas and 11 diabetes-related events that were cardiovascular.

Five participants experienced symptomatic cardiovascular events and six experienced asymptomatic myocardial ischemia. One person died of a stroke. However, researchers report that “mortality rate in patients similar to those in the current study but who did not undergo islet transplantation is three to four times higher with causes of death largely being severe hypoglycemia or ischemic heart disease.”

It is encouraging to see that a decade after islet transplantation, participants are still experiencing positive outcomes in regarding to diabetes management, with some maintaining insulin independence. As researchers continue to learn more and are able to refine and improve islet transplantation, more patients may benefit long-term from this treatment option and potentially achieve insulin independence.

Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) stays abreast of the latest findings in the field and provides critical funding for early career scientists to pursue research related to type 1 diabetes. It is through this work that improved treatments become available and scientists enhance their understanding of the disease. Learn more about these efforts and how to support existing projects by visiting https://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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