As medical technology and research continues to make advancements, each new year brings about fresh developments and new opportunities for diabetes management. Research organizations like JDRF and Joslin Diabetes Center are improving our understanding of diabetes with the motivation of better management and, ultimately, the hope for a diabetes cure.
Staying informed and updated on the conversation within the world of diabetes is useful for doctors and people with diabetes, as well as families and care givers. Here’s a rundown of some research to keep an eye on this year.
Joslin is currently working on research to determine whether or not naturally occurring betaine supplements (found in grains, beets and other vegetables) have the capability to reduce the risk of developing diabetes in people with prediabetes.
As the ADA-funded study continues, the hope is to observe whether taking betaine supplements will positively affect those with prediabetes, as measured by liver fat, insulin sensitivity, and blood vessel function. Depending on the results, the study could provide an opportunity to lower the risk of developing diabetes through the use of a simple dietary supplement.
JDRF has provided funding to Pandion Therapeutics in order to launch trials for autoimmune and inflammatory issues specifically related to type 1 diabetes. Pandion Therapeutics, a biotechnology company out of Cambridge, MA, will aim to develop tethers that are islet-specific and can be paired with certain immunomodulators previously developed by Pandion. These tissue-targeted immunotherapies are expected to offer safer treatment options, particularly for children living with T1D.
A fairly new player on the scene, Diabetes Research Connection is a non-profit organization that has been funding diabetes research projects since 2015. One project they are working on in 2019 is to discover changes taking place in human islets that will indicate how to block diabetes before at-risk patients begin to exhibit symptoms.
Specifically, this research project focuses on hyaluronan (HA), a tissue component that is present during inflammation, is particularly elevated during the early stages of T1D, and tends to cause damage to insulin-producing cells. Researchers aim to study non-diabetic pancreatic tissue in order to understand the timing and causality of these HA cell abnormalities, with the goal of finding a way to stop them. Funds are still being secured for this project, but it will hopefully begin sometime soon.
Focusing on problems associated with inflammation in T1D, the POSEIDON study includes participants aged between 6 and 65 years old who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within the past ten years.
The research in this study will compare the effectiveness of Vitamin D and Omega-3 medications to determine if they are helpful in slowing or stopping the progression of the autoimmune issues in T1D. In its second year, the study will aim to provide research on children and adults, with the hope of reducing inflammation, increasing insulin sensitivity/secretion, and stopping the progression of autoimmunity.
ViaCyte announced that a clinical trial has begun in Europe in 2019, allowing T1D patents to receive a subtherapeutic dose of a human stem cell-derived product. PEC-Direct is an encapsulated “pancreatic progenitor cell product” candidate designed as a beta cell replacement. The device, implanted into the body during a minor surgical procedure, is about the size of a credit card.
Instead of simply injecting insulin that only helps in the short term, the clinical trial team hopes to address the underlying problem of diabetes by replacing the beta cells themselves. The trial aims to offer additional insight into the development of cell therapy with the hope of an eventual cure for type 1 diabetes.
A collaboration between Eli Lilly and Sigilon Therapeutics has been partially funded by JDRF and is expected to continue in pre-clinical stages in 2019. The concept is that insulin-producing islet cells (contained in capsules) would be placed into the abdomen of a person with T1D, lasting for a year without the need for immunosuppressant medicines. The elimination of the body’s immune system response could change everything for this type of cell replacement treatment. Although human studies are likely still far out on the horizon, this step into islet cell encapsulation means that a cure for diabetes may be closer than ever.
These are just a few of the promising diabetes research studies taking place. Please share the ones you’re following in the comments!