DRC & Research News

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

Get the most recent diabetes research news, delivered straight to your inbox

Improving PD-L1 Levels to Treat Type 1 Diabetes

A major obstacle that researchers face in treating type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the body’s own immune system. In individuals with T1D, the immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells whether naturally occurring or introduced through novel therapeutic approaches. The use of anti-rejection drugs to protect newly injected or created cells can be hard to the body and contribute to undesirable side effects.

However, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital are studying a new approach to treating – and potentially curing – T1D. They found that in individuals with T1D have a deficiency of PD-L1, a protein that helps prevent autoimmune reactions by binding to PD-1 receptors. By treating blood stem cells using gene therapy or a cocktail of small molecules, they were able to increase PD-L1 production. In turn, this helped to reverse hyperglycemia and better manage blood sugar levels.

In an experiment using mice with diabetes, “almost all the mice were cured of diabetes in the short term, and one-third maintained normal blood sugar levels for the duration of their lives.” In addition, the risk of adverse events is practically eliminated since the therapy uses the patients’ own cells. Though immunotherapies have been used before in an effort to treat T1D, they have not been targeted specifically for diabetes, whereas in this study, they are.

The research team has already met with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a pre-investigational new drug meeting regarding the combination of small-molecules used during the mouse trials in order to begin the approval process for human clinical trials.

This is an exciting step toward advancing treatment options for type 1 diabetes and potentially reversing the disease. More research is needed to determine how long the effects last and how often treatment would be needed.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested to see how the study progresses in the future and what it could mean for individuals living with type 1 diabetes. Though not involved with this particular project, the DRC supports early career scientists in pursuing novel research studies geared toward preventing, treating, and curing T1D, as well as improving quality of life for those living with the disease. Learn more about these researchers and their projects by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Learn More +

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.

Learn More +

Single Strand of Islet Cells Could Change Diabetes Management

For patients with type 1 diabetes, daily insulin injections become a way of life. Since the pancreas either does not produce enough or any insulin, and the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells, the body is unable to regulate blood sugar on its own. There are many studies underway examining potential treatments that would eliminate the need for regular insulin injections.

One such study is being conducted by researchers at Cornell University in collaboration with Novo Nordisk and the University of Michigan Medical School. The researchers have developed an implant that would enable the production of insulin while warding off an attack from the immune system. The device is a single thread covered with “hundreds of thousands of islet cells” that is then fully encased in hydrogel. The hydrogel not only keeps the islets in place, it also protects them from being damaged.

The thread does not adhere to tissue within the body, so it can be easily removed and replaced once the islet cells reach the end of their lifespan. Current research shows they could potentially last anywhere from several months up to two years. This device has shown promising results when tested in both mice and dogs. No testing on humans has taken place yet, which would need to be done before the technology is potentially approved for use.

Technology continues to advance when it comes to treating and managing type 1 diabetes, and this is very encouraging. The Diabetes Research Connection strives to support early career scientists in conducting novel research studies focused on type 1 diabetes in order to improve the quality of life for individuals living with the disease and enhance diagnosis, prevention, and treatment efforts. To learn more, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

Learn More +

Unlimited access to all the essential project updates latest diabetes research news, and more.