Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not properly produce insulin, a hormone the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. Glucose is a simple sugar used for energy which is created by the body—specifically the pancreas—by breaking down the sugars and starches that are consumed.
Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and comprises five percent of all people with diabetes. In Type 1, inflammatory T cells attack beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells are the insulin producing cells that help keep sugar levels regulated. Many scientists searching for a cure focus on finding ways to prevent the T cell attack on the beta cells.
In one recent type 1 diabetes study, researchers focused on a protein called PD-L1 in blood stem cells that normally limit the T cell attack. Researchers led by those at Harvard Medical School’s Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts discovered that the genetic network of pathways that control PD-L1 production is different in the blood stem cells of diabetics, stopping PD-L1 from being produced. They then experimented with two ways of increasing PD-L1 production, both of which resulted in a diabetes-reversing effect.
They plan to send at least one of these approaches to clinical trial as a treatment. In another diabetes study, this one at the Colorado School of Public Health, higher levels of vitamin D were shown to prevent islet autoimmunity. “Islet” is a reference to pancreatic cells called the Islets of Langerhans—clusters of cells that contain the beta cells. In the study, 8,676 children who had a genetic risk for developing type 1 had their blood sampled regularly for up to 4 years. Among the children who possessed a variant in the vitamin D receptor gene, higher levels of vitamin D were linked with a reduced risk of developing islet autoimmunity. Cause and effect is still unproven, though, so further studies are needed.
Additional research has uncovered possible treatments using insulin-producing cell transplants, immunotherapy, and drug therapy. However, more studies are required to gain better insights and understanding of the treatment’s safety and effectiveness.
This research is critical to improving the lives of diabetics. Meridien Research has type 1 diabetes research studies that are enrolling now at all six of our clinics. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 1-888-777-8839 or visit our individual study pages.