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Important Advances in Type 1 Diabetes Research

JDRF-funded studies on development of artificial pancreas, encapsulated islet cell therapies, and kidney preservation presented at 2015 ADA Scientific Sessions….

Researchers at the University of Virginia are working to make the idea of an artificial pancreas a reality for anyone who needs it. Dr. Boris Kovatchev and his research team have developed a Diabetes Assistant Artificial Pancreas (DiAs AP) algorithm that can be used continuously in individuals with type 1 diabetes to help monitor their blood glucose levels and keep them in range all day and night. The target range is 70 – 180 mg/dL. According to their findings, the DiAs system is capable of reducing the amount of hypoglycemia experienced by type 1 diabetics, increasing the amount of time in range, and improving overnight control of blood glucose. Due to their promising preliminary results, research can now be expanded to a larger population, which could also include system options for use in children, teens, and pregnant women.

Another focus of JDRF research has been the development of a new process that would allow for a significant decrease in the amount of time it takes researchers to create insulin-producing islet cells from human stem cells that would then be used in encapsulated islet cell therapies. Along with that, efforts are being made to pinpoint potential substances that can be used to encapsulate implanted islet cells without causing an immune response. Drs. Timothy Kieffer and Douglas Melton both claim to have developed procedures that shorten new islet cells production time by at least 70%; reducing the time from 20 – 24 weeks to as little as 6 weeks. The main difference in these new procedures is that implantation of the islet cells is not required for insulin production to take place. Ideally, further advancement in this area of research could lead to an increase in the number of islet cells available for implantation and research, and a decrease in the amount of time it would take type 1 diabetics to reap the benefits from islet cell implantation.

Type 1 diabetes can lead to a variety of complications, one of the most common being kidney injury. Current research is attempting to tackle this problem from a few different angles: reversing the damage via an arthritis drug, evaluating endothelial progenitor cell levels and kidney function, and identifying genes that may foster kidney disease in type 1 diabetics. Eli Lilly and Dr. Matthias Kretzler’s (UMich) early research on how baricitinib (an arthritis drug) affects kidney injury, has potential because it produced a reduction in kidney injury for individuals in the intervention group. At the Joslin Diabetes Center, researchers found that there may be connection between endothelial progenitor cell levels and kidney injury. Based on this study, individuals who suffer from kidney injury tend to have lower levels of endothelial progenitor cells; replenishing EPC levels may be a treatment option for individuals with declining kidney function. Dr. Linda Hiraki presented research that aims to identify a genetic agent in the development of kidney injury for those with type 1 diabetes. GPBP1 is the gene that was consistently missing in individuals with kidney injury related to type 1 diabetes. More research is needed in this area to confirm the link between GPBP1 and kidney injury, and corresponding treatment options.

Practice Pearls:

  • JDRF is a major supporter of research for type 1 diabetes treatment, prevention, and cure.
  • Research is ever-evolving; regularly check scholarly journals and credible online sources to stay up-to-date on the latest research findings and treatment guidelines.
  • Volunteers are always needed to participate in new and ongoing research.

American Diabetes Association 2015 Scientific Sessions; June 7, 2015; Boston, Massachusetts.