August Type 1 Diabetes Research Update

Recently, the media has been full of stories highlighting new and emerging advancements in type 1 diabetes research and devices. With such an influx of information it can be difficult keep up with all of the exciting developments taking place around the world. To shine a light on some of these, we’ve composed a short list of some of the most exciting stories emerging in the past few months.

Type 1 Diabetes Cured in Mice

In May, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio announced they have found a way to cure type 1 diabetes in mice. This comes after research spanning the past few years has investigated replacing the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, which are destroyed in cases of type 1 diabetes.

Medical News Today reports that rather than replace these beta cells, Dr Bruno Doiron and his team at the university have used a method of gene transfer to help trigger other pancreatic cells to produce insulin.

This technique is called Cellular Networking, Integration and Processing and has led to long-term insulin secretion and blood glucose regulation in mice with no adverse side effects.

As always with studies tested on animals, more research is required before this technique can be trialled in humans, though it is projected that trials could commence sometime in the next three years.

‘Artificial Pancreas’ Trials in Australia

Closer to home, an exciting Australia-first study will see people from across the country fitted with an ‘artificial pancreas.’ When speaking to JDRF Australia, Professor Tim Jones, co-director of the Children’s Diabetes Centre at the Telethon Kids Institute said, “The hybrid closed-loop system consists of an insulin pump, [continuous glucose monitoring (CGM)] sensor with transmitter attached and a maths program (an algorithm) within the pump that automatically works out how much insulin is needed and is adjusted every five minutes.”

The study will involve 120 people aged 12-25 and 160 people aged 26-70 over a six month period. And though participants will still be required to check their glucose levels manually in order to calibrate the CGM, it is expected that the ‘artificial pancreas’ will reduce the user’s time spent monitoring their levels.

Vaccine for Type 1 Diabetes Headed for Human Trials

In Finland, researchers at the University of Tampere Faculty of Medicine and Life Science have been exploring the possibility that type 1 diabetes could be linked to viral infections for over 25 years. Following this route, the team, led by Professor Heikki Hyöty has developed a prototype vaccine to potentially prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Though this vaccine will not be a cure for diabetes, researchers are encouraged that it has already been established as safe and effective on mice and it is expected the prototype will move into human clinical trials by 2018.

Capsules with Potential for Artificial Organs

In late July, researchers at Curtin University announced they had developed a nanocapsule with the potential to grow healthy cells. They hope these nanocapsules might host healthy organs, taking us one step closer to an artificial pancreas capable of producing insulin.

This trial was the first of its kind to insert capsules into animals without the need for extra drugs and surgery. Importantly, creating artificial organs may lead to treatment for a number of conditions, not just type 1 diabetes.

All of these developments are an important reminder that science and technology are always opening doors. Though many of these studies are still in the early stages, it is great to know that each new discovery broadens our knowledge of diabetes, and increases the chances that we will see significant changes to the way we manage type 1 diabetes in the years ahead.

Diabetes Australia’s Cure Club raises vital funds for diabetes research to promote important discoveries about Australia’s fastest growing chronic condition. For more information about how to make ongoing monthly donations to the Cure Club click here.