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Find out the latest news about JDRF's research and fundraising events.


Breaking news: Encapsulated stem cells implanted in to person with type 1 diabetes for first time

JDRF partner company ViaCyte has announced the first successful implant of its islet encapsulation system into a person with type 1 diabetes. The person was taking part in a University of California-based trial to assess the safety of the system.

Type 1 diabetes arises when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, leaving a person with type 1 unable to manage their own blood glucose levels without external sources of insulin. ViaCyte’s system replaces these insulin-producing cells, and could therefore allow a person with type 1 to produce their own insulin automatically in response to changing glucose levels.

The device, called VC-01, contains thousands of immature cells derived from stem cells in a credit card-sized capsule. Once implanted inside the body, these cells mature into insulin-producing cells and are kept safe from the immune system. This protection sets the treatment apart from traditional transplantation, where the cells are left unprotected and are eventually destroyed once again by the immune system.

Because the system uses stem cells, it also has the potential to treat far more people than transplantation, which is hampered by a lack of organ donors. Indeed, just two weeks ago, Dr Doug Melton, who has also received JDRF funding, announced an efficient method of producing thousands of insulin-producing cells from small numbers of stem cells in the lab.

However, the University of California trial is just the first of many that will be needed to see if the treatment is a success. The primary goal of this first study is to evaluate the safety of the VC-01 device in people who have had type 1 for at least three years, not to make them insulin independent. Subsequent trials will be needed to see how effective the device is over a number of years.

‘I’m really excited that this encapsulation system is being tested in a person with type 1 diabetes,’ said Karen Addington, CEO of JDRF in the UK . ‘Islet encapsulation has huge potential to transform the lives of people with type 1 – which is why we’re proud to support this and many other encapsulation projects around the world.’

Dr. Paul Laikind, President and CEO of ViaCyte, said: ‘Treating the first patient with our stem cell-derived islet replacement product candidate is an exciting next step in our quest to transform the way patients with type 1 diabetes are impacted by the condition.  Moving from a promising idea to a new medicine is a long and challenging journey and we are grateful to JDRF, and all its supporters, for the tremendous and continued support they have provided.’


JDRF supporter and Hairy Biker Si King: “Type 1 diabetes is a pain in the a**e!”

Si King – who is one half of the much-loved Hairy Bikers – has opened up about the challenges of being a father to a teenager living with type 1 diabetes.

Speaking about his 14-year-old son Dylan, Si said: “His body is going through a lot of changes. I love adolescence. I have had a great time with my three kids going through that stage. But adolescence is always challenging and it’s even more challenging when there’s a chronic condition involved.

“All the physical and psychological challenges of being an adolescent can be compounded by the condition. Fundamentally, that’s why I’m supporting JDRF.”

Speaking about type 1 diabetes, the TV star said “It’s a pain in the arse. You’re seeing loved ones sticking needles in themselves. You don’t want that for people you love.” But he added that “diabetes doesn’t control us as a family. We do what we have to do.”

The chef told JDRF that he likes to follow developments in type 1 diabetes research that are taking us closer to new treatments and the eventual cure. He said: “I have news feeds from medical journals on my computer. This stuff affects me, so I read up on it.”

Si described the JDRF-funded Harvard research breakthrough announced earlier this month as “absolutely fantastic.”

Si is currently in the middle of a JDRF-supporting six week weight-loss campaign with his Hairy Bikers Diet Club.  By losing weight, he’ll be reducing his risk of type 2 diabetes. But he chose to fundraise for JDRF during the campaign to highlight that son could have done nothing to avoid type 1 diabetes, the development of which is not linked to lifestyle or diet.  

For every pound in weight he loses, he’ll give £100 to charity. £1 is also being donated for every person that signs up to lose weight with Si, who said that his battle with the bathroom scales was “going great.”

When Si announced his weight-loss campaign at the end of last month, Chief Executive of JDRF Karen Addington expressed her thanks. She said: “He’ll help to bust some diabetes myths, as well as helping us to support vital type 1 diabetes research.”


Rugby pro with type 1 diabetes tackles the condition in #TypeOnesie spirit

Rugby star Chris Pennell – who lives with type 1 diabetes and has played for England – has backed JDRF’s #TypeOnesie charity campaign for World Diabetes Day. He’s been busy training in his onesie, and has got his Worcester Warriors team mates involved too!

From left to right: Gerrit-Jan van Velze, Sam Smith, Chris Pennell and Ryan Lamb battle it out 

The #TypeOnesie campaign sees supporters wear a onesie for the day, on or near to 14 November, to raise funds and awareness for type 1 diabetes charity JDRF. The 27 year old full-back decided to get involved after being inspired by the breakthrough JDRF-funded study from Harvard scientists this month.

Chris said: “There’s been some remarkable work in pioneering type 1 diabetes research recently. And with World Diabetes Day fast approaching, now more than ever is the time to help raise funds for JDRF.”

He added: “The rugby lads and I have had a great laugh dressed as a #TypeOnesie and encourage others to do the same! Please get involved and spread the word!”

In June this year, Chris became the first rugby player living with type 1 diabetes to score a try for England.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF in the UK, said: “Living with type 1 diabetes certainly doesn’t have to stop you from achieving great things – Chris proves this. He is a brilliant role model for people living with the condition.

“A big thank you to Chris and his friends, for getting behind our #TypeOnesie campaign with such enthusiasm.”

If like Chris you want to support JDRF for World Diabetes Day, visit


Dashing new Downton Abbey character has special link with type 1 diabetes charity JDRF

The world-famous fictional world of Downton Abbey has received a new face, thanks to a special real-life collaboration between the show and JDRF.

Atticus Aldridge, played by Matt Barber, is the show’s dashing new character who looks set for romance with beautiful young Lady Rose. He is named after a real-life Atticus Aldridge – who is only 21 months old.

The character's name was won in a fundraising auction for JDRF at the Sugarplum Dinner last year, organised by Sugarplum Children to raise funds for the charity.

Sugarplum founder Jubie Wigan is from Oxfordshire and has a small daughter who lives with type 1 diabetes. Jubie approached the show’s creator and family friend, Lord Fellowes, to ask if the chance to name a character could be auctioned off at the high-profile dinner which took place in central London in November 2013. ‘Atticus Aldridge’ is the result. 

Jubie said: “We are so excited about the arrival of Atticus Aldridge to Downton Abbey. We are so grateful to the generosity of the bidders, and are so proud to have played a part in the conception of a character in one of the most successful TV shows of all time.  And were hoping we can offer the same auction prize at the next dinner in 2015!”

Atticus’ parents are generous auction bidders Michael and Georgia Aldridge. Their donation will help JDRF to support vital type 1 diabetes research.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF, said: “JDRF would like to warmly thank the Aldridge family, Jubie Wigan, Lord and Lady Fellowes and all of the Downton Abbey team for their precious ongoing support of our mission to better treat, prevent and one day cure type 1 diabetes.”

Read more about JDRF's celebrity supporters.


Newport mum gets school ready for #TypeOnesie and World Diabetes Day next month - what will you be doing?

Four year old Olivia Allcock was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012. Since then, her family have been dedicated to raising money and awareness of the condition in order to one day find a cure. Olivia was a #TypeOnesie for World Diabetes Day in November last year. She enjoyed it so much that she will be doing the same again this year.

The campaign means wearing a onesie for the day – whether at school or work – and joining thousands of others across the country in raising awareness of type 1 diabetes and funds for JDRF.

 Vicki, Olivia’s mum and Newport resident said: “Last year, all the children and staff at Olivia’s nursery took part in #TypeOnesie day. Our local paper even came along too.

 “Olivia can’t wait to do it again. She’s just started reception at Lliswerry Primary School and has got all the infants, juniors and staff to get involved too. They’re all so excited about wearing their onesies to school!”

Talking about how the condition affects family life, Vicki said: “With Olivia being so young she doesn’t understand the seriousness of the condition. Diabetes is constantly on my mind because she is not old enough to manage it herself.”

She added: “Raising money for JDRF means a lot to us. By getting in our onesies we are helping to get better treatments and one day a cure for type 1 diabetes – so Olivia and all the other children living with the condition can one day lead a normal life again.”

Mrs Saunders, Head Teacher at Lliswerry Primary School, said: “When Olivia asked if the school could stage a #TypeOnesie day – we were more than happy to oblige! We encourage every child to enjoy learning and develop a lively and enquiring mind and therefore for any child living with type 1 diabetes, having the condition should not be a hindrance.”

She added: “The #TypeOnesie campaign is a shining example of how pupils can have fun, but also learn about an important cause. I would encourage other schools to get involved too.”

If like Olivia and her school you fancy being a #TypeOnesie for JDRF, you can find out more here.


Dr. Melton – the Harvard hero behind today’s type 1 diabetes stem cell breakthrough – thanks JDRF

You’ve seen the news today. Harvard stem cell researchers have announced a ‘giant leap forward’ in the quest to find a truly effective treatment for type 1 diabetes. 

With human embryonic stem cells as a starting point, the scientists are for the first time able to produce – in massive quantities – human insulin-producing beta cells equivalent in almost every way to normally functioning beta cells. It’s not yet a cure. But it’s big news.

Now meet the man who led this breakthrough.

Dr. Doug Melton is Co-scientific Director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. When his then-infant son Sam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 23 years ago, he dedicated his career to finding a cure for the condition. His daughter, Emma, also lives with type 1 diabetes.

The 61-year-old Cambridge graduate has previously been listed among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Jose Oberholtzer, Associate Professor of Surgery, Endocrinology and Diabetes and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois said: “Doug Melton has put in a life-time of hard work in finding a way of generating human islet cells in vitro. He made it.”

When he told his son and daughter about his breakthrough, they were surprisingly calm. He said: “I think like all kids, they always assumed that if I said I’d do this, I’d do it.”

Melton is now beginning a US$4 million project with JDRF, for the next stage of development of these cells. Expressing gratitude to the charity and its supporters, Dr. Melton said: “their support has been, and continues to be essential.”


‘Giant leap forward’ in type 1 diabetes research – but not yet a cure

JDRF-linked Harvard researchers have announced a ‘giant leap forward’ in type 1 diabetes treatment research.

The front page headline of the Times states “Diabetes: a cure at last.” Today’s news does not mean the cure has been discovered. But it is nonetheless a major research breakthrough.

The work to grow large numbers of insulin-producing beta cells in the lab, led by Dr Doug Melton, could be crucial in the field of encapsulation therapy – which would eliminate the need to inject insulin. Dr Melton is a ‘diabetes dad’ who was inspired to dedicate his life to type 1 diabetes research by the diagnosis of his son.

Until now, the route to growing functioning beta cells from stem cells was slow and produced the cells in small numbers. It involved converting stem cells into immature beta cells, which then needed time to mature before becoming fully functional.

This means that type 1 diabetes researchers have been hampered in their efforts to develop new treatments for type 1 by a lack of large numbers of human beta cells, either derived through this lengthy process or from donated tissue.

The large-scale system being developed by the Harvard team could greatly expand the number of human beta cells available. These could then be used for testing new drugs, or in novel encapsulation systems, speeding up the research pipeline.

Dr Richard Insel, Chief Scientific Officer at JDRF in the US, said: ‘JDRF is thrilled with this advancement toward large scale production of mature, functional human beta cells by Dr Melton and his team.

‘This significant accomplishment has the potential to serve as a cell source for islet replacement in people with type 1 diabetes, and may provide a resource for discovery of beta cell therapies that promote survival or regeneration of beta cells.’

Melton, who has received multiple JDRF research grants since he began his work in type 1 research 23 years ago, said: ‘You never know for sure that something like this is going to work until you've tested it numerous ways. We've given these cells three separate challenges with glucose in mice and they've responded appropriately; that was really exciting.’

Melton is now beginning a US$4 million project with JDRF, which will aim to learn more about these stem cell-derived beta cells, and investigate their potential for use in encapsulation systems.

The research was published in the journal Cell.

There's lots of ways you can support type 1 diabetes research, find out more on how you can get involved.


National Diabetes Audit highlights ‘systemic failure’ of NHS care for people with type 1 diabetes

JDRF’s Chief Executive has called for an urgent focus on better type 1 diabetes health care, in response to today’s release of the National Diabetes Audit. She states that type 1 diabetes continues to be ‘forgotten’ in the NHS’s wider efforts to combat the increasing impact of diabetes on the nation.

The National Diabetes Audit has raised particular concerns about the health of people under 40 living with diabetes – of whom over 50 per cent have type 1. It shows that they are far less likely to receive annual care processes or achieve basic treatment targets than those aged 40 and over.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF, said: “The picture across all diabetes is certainly not good enough, but our healthcare system is particularly, and systemically, failing children and adults with type 1 diabetes. They are living with a forgotten condition.”

She continued: “There are committed people working to deliver pockets of excellent local care and type 1 diabetes research is making very exciting progress; but we should be ashamed that people with type 1 diabetes are at risk because their condition is not being properly managed.  We need an urgent prioritisation of better type 1 diabetes healthcare and targeted support for people managing this complex condition.”

The report states that of people living with type 1 diabetes in England and Wales:

  • Only 16.2 per cent met all their treatment targets in 2012-13, a drop from 16.5 the previous year. This compares to 37.4 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes meeting their treatment targets in 2012-13 (and 37.5 in 2011-12)
  • Only 29.1 per cent aged under 40 are receiving eight of their nine NICE recommended care processes. The figure for the same group of people but living with type 2 diabetes was 46.3 per cent

The National Diabetes Audit also highlighted ‘the much greater progress that has been made in the management of type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes over the past 15 years’ and made particular reference to the low numbers of people being offered structured education. Only 3.9 per cent of people newly diagnosed with type 1 were offered this vital service, compared to 16.7 per cent of people newly diagnosed with type 2.

Speaking in his role as Chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Diabetes, Adrian Sanders MP, who lives with type 1 diabetes, said: “Diabetes care is 98 per cent self-management and yet we are not equipping people with the skills to do it properly. The result is a bill running into the billions for our NHS. Supported self-management has the capability to improve lives and reduce spiralling long-term costs.”

The APPG for Diabetes is currently conducting a year-long investigation into the state of diabetes education and support in the UK, and will present its findings in early 2015. The secretariat of the APPG is shared between JDRF and Diabetes UK.

The National Diabetes Audit was released today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), and applies to those living with diabetes in England and Wales. You can view the full report here.


Si King, the Hairy Biker, revs up to raise funds for JDRF and support type 1 diabetes research

Si King – who is one half of Britain’s much loved chef duo the Hairy Bikers – is revving up to raise funds for JDRF.

Si’s teenage son lives with type 1 diabetes. Si himself has recently had a major health challenge of his own, having suffered a brain aneurysm earlier in 2014.

Having put on some weight during his convalescence, Si has launched a six week weight-loss campaign with his Hairy Bikers Diet Club. By losing weight, Si will be reducing his risk of type 2 diabetes. But he knows his son could have done nothing to avoid type 1 diabetes, as development of type 1 isn’t linked to lifestyle or diet. So he’s chosen JDRF to be the charity recipient of his campaign.

Si said: “For every pound I lose during that six weeks, I’m going to give £100 to charity. The charity is called JDRF. It’s close to my heart because my youngest son Dylan, who’s 14, has type 1 diabetes.”

The campaign will also donate £1 for every person that signs up to lose weight with Si.

Karen Addington said: “We were delighted when Si contacted us to say he would be pledging his support in this way. He’ll help to bust some diabetes myths, as well as helping us to support vital type 1 diabetes research.”

You can find out more about Si's campaign here

Are you a fan of the open road like Si? Click here to see how you could drive in a famous car rally across Europe - named Scumrun - and support JDRF!


JDRF’s #WalktoCure Diabetes raises over £285,000 – and counting

JDRF’s #WalktoCure Diabetes season is now over – but the money raised is still coming in. Thank you to everyone who participated in our walks, raising over £285,000 of an expected £330,000 so far!

Over the month of September, supporters from across the country came out in their thousands for JDRF. Step by step they tweeted their stories and fundraised tirelessly – helping to support vital type 1 diabetes research along the way.

Hornchurch mum Sarah Vincent took part in the London Bridges Walk yesterday. She said: “A big thank you to everyone at JDRF for a lovely day! My nine year old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nearly a year ago and like a lot of other families, we have good days and bad days.

“But today was a good day – the sun was shining and it was great to see so many people at the walk, raising money to help find a cure for the condition.”

Hayling Island Walk participant, Nikki Johnson, said yesterday: “I’m here in memory of my grandad Derek, who lived with type 1 diabetes for over 60 years. He did a lot for JDRF and inspired many people along the way. It’s great to be united with other people fighting for the same cause.”

JDRF’s #WalktoCure Diabetes events take place in various countries around the world – so those that took part in the UK  stood shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of people who have walked in support of type 1 diabetes research globally.

Lydia Warrilow, Head of Regional Fundraising at JDRF said: “Our annual walks are a great opportunity to meet other families affected by type 1 diabetes. Thank you so much to all of our walkers, for supporting JDRF and raising such a remarkable amount of money.”

Walk season is over but the fun doesn’t have to finish. Wear a onesie to school or work and be a #TypeOnesie for JDRF this World Diabetes Day!


Football stadium named in honour of JDRF supporter

The stadium of Nuneaton Town FC will be officially renamed the ‘James Parnell Stadium’ this weekend – after a 13 year old football fan and JDRF supporter who lives with type 1 diabetes.

James Parnell's dad David, is a local and lifelong fan of the club. He was selected in a prize draw to choose the name of  the 4,500 capacity venue for the 2014/2015 season.

James was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in November 2011. His dad said: “Ultimately I want a cure for my son – but at the moment there isn’t one.  So I want to raise awareness of the condition and support JDRF in trying to find one.

He added: “James was ecstatic when we were picked, it was brilliant!”

Cara Rowbotham, Regional Fundraiser for JDRF in the Midlands said: “It’s really important that more people are made aware of type 1 diabetes and the effects that it has on those living with the condition. Our biggest thanks to James and his dad, for supporting JDRF and helping to make this happen!”

The re-naming will take place in a home match against Dartford FC on Saturday 27 September and is set to be a great day out for all football fans. Please go along and support the new JDRF partnership if you’re in the area.

James is a T1 Youth Ambassador for JDRF. If you fancy being one too, sign up here.


A view from Vienna, day 5: Looking to the future

This week, Conor McKeever (our Research Communication Officer) is reporting from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Vienna. Each day he'll be reporting on the things he's found interesting and exciting from Europe's biggest meeting of diabetes researchers.

Although things were winding down in Vienna, Friday was definitely a case of last but not least for type 1 research. Potential cures were at the forefront of the day’s lectures, with a particular focus on encapsulation and immune therapies – two big areas in which JDRF is investing.

Stanley Lasch, from the Goethe University Hospital in Frankfurt, announced the results from a study that combined two immune system treatments to make one more effective therapy. Current research into anti-CD3 drugs (which target the immune system T cells involved in type 1) has found that they can help reduce a person’s need for insulin, but that the effect wears off fairly soon after, allowing the T cells to return. Lasch’s team looked at adding a second drug that they believe can prevent T cells getting back into the pancreas after the anti-CD3 drug wears off.

Overall, 65% of the mice given the two drugs did not require insulin after six months; in contrast, 47% of the mice given anti-CD3 drugs alone did not require insulin after this time. Although research is needed to see if the effect can be replicated in humans, it’s an exciting step forward for a treatment that’s already receiving a lot of interest.

Dr Gerlies Treiber, of the Medical University of Graz, was also enthusiastic about a possible immune therapy for type 1. She has been investigating the effects of vitamin D on the immune system, as low vitamin D levels are one of the factors being studied as a potential contributor to type 1 risk. She found that giving vitamin D supplements to people who were newly-diagnosed with type 1 seemed to increase the activity (though not the number) of their regulatory T cells – the cells that are meant to stop the immune system attacking the body. Given that this defence appears to fail in type 1, increasing the strength or number of regulatory T cells is one aim of our cure research.

On the encapsulation side of things, Dr Evi Motté from the Diabetes Research Center in Brussels has been studying the effectiveness of the cells used in ViaCyte’s macro-encapsulation device. We recently announced how the company, which has received JDRF funding, now has approval to test their device in humans, so it was particularly pleasing to hear that other researchers are testing the cells ViaCyte use.

Motté found that the macro-encapsulated cells were able to secrete a much higher level of insulin than cells implanted using more traditional micro-encapsulation techniques. Levels were more similar to the levels found in non-protected transplanted cells, but non-protected cells are still vulnerable to attack from the immune system, so fail more quickly.

On the whole, the last day of the conference showed there is a lot of hope for cure research. Immune therapies and encapsulation work is coming on apace, and it’s really encouraging to see that researchers from around the world are getting behind the same work that JDRF is supporting. In fact, I’d say the same was true of the week as a whole – there’s so much tremendous research going on and there was barely a session that didn’t have JDRF-supported work somewhere in it. It’ll be great to see where the research goes from here, and I’m excited to see what will be announced at next year’s conference in Stockholm.

Photo: Vienna by Flickr user Miroslav Petrasko, used under a Creative Commons licence.


Motoring fan? Up for a challenge? Do Scumrun 2015 across Europe for JDRF and support type 1 diabetes research!

A famous four-day charity car rally across Europe has selected JDRF as its charity for 2015.

UK motoring fans will hit the continent’s roads in May for the 10th anniversary Scumrun event. Scumrun is a ‘charity drive,’ which sees participants drive old cars – that must be under £500 in value – onto a ferry from a UK port and then on to the roads of western Europe.

The event, which sees people staying on campsites, has a big reputation for fun and for humour.

Participants are encouraged to decorate and modify their cars while getting behind the wheel in wacky outfits. Prizes up for grabs include the ‘Spirit’ of the event, ‘Best Dressed’, ‘Best Modified Car’ and of course ‘Highest Fundraising Achieved.’  Participants’ sense of adventure is heightened as their designated route around Europe is not told to them until just before they set off.

In recent years, each Scumrun has had over 100 cars participate. The event has a proud record of raising funds for one lucky charity each year. In spring 2014, the charity Tommy’s benefited to the tune of £100,000.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF in the UK, said: “JDRF is incredibly excited to be chosen as the charity for the 2015 Scumrun charity drive. Type 1 diabetes affects 400,000 people in the UK – including 29,000 children. But finding a cure for this condition is just a matter of time, money and great research. The support of Scumrun will help us travel further along the road to the cure.”

Are you a motoring fan who wants a road adventure this spring? Do you want to support type 1 diabetes research that will make a difference for children and adults living with the condition? Click here to register for this major JDRF fundraising event.


A view from Vienna, day 4: type 1 tech and treatments

This week, Conor McKeever (our Research Communication Officer) is reporting from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Vienna. Each day he'll be reporting on the things he's found interesting and exciting from Europe's biggest meeting of diabetes researchers.

It’s hard to believe that the JDRF Artificial Pancreas Program was launched only eight years ago. Since then, we’ve gone from a few prototype devices being used by one or two people, to three-week and three-month trials of the artificial pancreas at home, unsupervised by researchers.

But as exciting and as close to reality the first generation devices are now, we’re not resting on our laurels. Thursday’s presentations from researchers focused on all elements of the artificial pancreas – CGMs, pumps and the algorithm – and how we can get the most from them.

Dr Hood Thabit and Dr Martin Tauschmann, both working as part of the University of Cambridge artificial pancreas team, were among those in Vienna to share their results.

They’ve found that using the artificial pancreas overnight helps people to bring their glucose levels down, without increasing the risk of hypos – a success that we’ve previously reported on. They’re also looking at why some people do better than others on the trials, to see what can be done to improve the efficacy of the device. At the moment, according to Dr Tauschmann, the longer a person has had type 1, the less time they spend in the target blood glucose range when using the artificial pancreas. If the researchers can establish why this is, they will use that information to make the device even better than it is currently.

Dr Thabit also discussed a CGM accuracy trial that had supported their decision to allow the artificial pancreas to be used at home. It was no small undertaking, taking the equivalent of 2,002 days’ use (nearly 5 ½ years!) for the CGMs being used to be deemed accurate enough. This, if anything, made it clear that the researchers are dedicated to making the best artificial pancreas system possible.

Later, we heard from Dr Roberto Trevisan of the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, Italy, who has found that using insulin pumps can help people with type 1 avoid complications. Dr Trevisan’s trial suggested that even when blood glucose levels were similar to those of people using insulin injections, using a pump reduced the risks of kidney problems.

To round off the day, Professor Eric Renard, of the University of Montpellier, gave his opinion on whether ‘the dream’ of an artificial pancreas could ever become reality. Drawing together the histories of CGMs and pumps, from the unwieldy and inaccurate devices of the 70s and 80s, to the increasingly complex simulators of the last few years that have allowed the two devices to work together, he made it clear he believes the artificial pancreas is closer than ever.

“Closed loop insulin delivery at night is already safe, effective and sustainable in the home, while 24/7 use is feasible, with several trials ongoing,” he concluded.

Photo: Vienna by Flickr user Krister, used under a Creative Commons licence.


A view from Vienna, day 3: trying to make type 1 diabetes complications less complicated

This week, Conor McKeever (our Research Communication Officer) is reporting from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Vienna. Each day he'll be reporting on the things he's found interesting and exciting from Europe's biggest meeting of diabetes researchers.

While a lot of the research we fund at JDRF is working towards a cure, we also want to help people who have type 1 to live longer, healthier lives until the cure is found. That’s why we fund a number of projects looking at preventing and treating complications, alongside work to make controlling glucose levels safer and easier. And from Wednesday’s sessions at EASD it’s clear we’re not alone in this: researchers from around the world were here to discuss their work on understanding diabetes complications.

A lot of the studies presented today focused on understanding what causes complications – if we can understand this, we may be able to develop strategies to address these root causes before complications develop.

Stijn Peeters, from Maastricht University, is focusing on the extracellular matrix (ECM) – essentially, the space between the body’s cells, and the molecules that are found there. He has found that people with type 1 tend to have higher than normal levels of molecules that break down the ECM. He also discovered that having high levels of some of these molecules is associated with conditions like retinopathy and cardiovascular disease. Although these molecules are part of the body’s way of getting rid of old and damaged parts, it seems like having too many could indicate a higher risk of complications. Knowing this, researchers may be able to identify steps we could take to reduce that risk.

Other researchers looked at different complications.  A team from Manchester led by Dr Steven Brown looked at the effect of diabetic neuropathy on something that on the surface doesn’t come up much in conversations about diabetes – falling down the stairs. People with nerve damage to their limbs had greater trouble balancing when going up and down stairs than people without this nerve damage. The team are now working to understand whether strength training and other interventions can help mitigate this risk for people who do develop nerve damage.

Being able to diagnose complications early is a key goal for many researchers. Dr Vincent Monnier of Cape Western Reserve University announced how his team had been able to link the fluorescence of collagen in the skin to a person’s risk of retinopathy and kidney disease. It certainly seemed like a novel way to test for a person’s risk of these conditions, and new ideas like this are incredibly important for the future.

The fact that getting the best possible glucose control is still the best way to reduce risk of complications seems to be reinforced by a study from Sweden looking at difference in rates of complications between people using insulin pens and those using pumps – the pump group were 43% less likely to develop fatal cardiovascular disease than the group using pens. The authors were rightly careful to highlight that pump usage alone probably doesn’t account for all of this risk reduction. Other important factors, such as the intensive education people in Sweden receive when they go on a pump, are likely to play an important role in the difference between the two groups. Unpicking these factors, and deepening our understanding of how to detect and treat complications if they do arise, mean that we can look forward to a future where complications of diabetes are less, well, complicated!

Photo: Park in Vienna by flickr user Ville Miettinen, used under a Creative Commons licence.


A view from Vienna, day 2: Education, education, education

This week, Conor McKeever (our Research Communication Officer) is reporting from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Vienna. Each day he'll be reporting on the things he's found interesting and exciting from Europe's biggest meeting of diabetes researchers.

Tuesday was the first day of the conference proper, with scientific presentations and announcements beginning in earnest.

In the morning, talks chaired by Professor Simon Heller of the University of Sheffield emphasised the importance of diabetes education – something that JDRF is also committed to highlighting. Just last week we led the latest All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes meeting, focusing MPs' attention on the results of our recent tweetchat on diabetes education.

With researchers from the US, Germany and Italy announcing how their education programmes have helped lower HbA1c levels, reduce the frequency of hypos, and improve overall control, this should make it harder for the Government to ignore.

One of the more unusual talks came from Professor Daniel Cox, of the University of Virginia, about a novel way to reduce the risk of 'mishaps' while driving. He trialled an online tool that assessed whether people were at high risk of accidents (for example, if they were less likely to test their levels before driving, or often had hypos on the road), then guided them through modules to develop safer behaviours (such as instilling a pre-driving routine that included a blood test, and how to prevent hypos while driving). He even developed a 'pre-drive checklist' – like a pilot’s pre-flight checklist – to help.

Overall the tool led to a 53% reduction in the number of 'mishaps', bringing the high-risk drivers to a level much closer to that of the low-risk drivers. This success suggests that educational programmes like these can sit alongside traditional systems that aim to reduce HbA1c.

Unfortunately, this may become harder to implement as driving regulations change: research from the University of Copenhagen also announced at the conference suggested that when EU regulations changed in 2012, people began under-reporting hypos to avoid losing their licence. By not reporting this information, these people could then be missed out if their healthcare teams come to offer advice around driving.

More worryingly, if there is a wider trend of people under-reporting hypos, people with type 1 could be missing out on crucial help more generally. Education can help people improve their management, but only if healthcare teams know what help to give, and to whom. The results from the Copenhagen team are concerning and we should try to identify if this is a widespread effect, and take steps to prevent it.

Photo: Vienna Square by Flickr user celesteh, used under a Creative Commons licence.


A view from Vienna, day 1: Discussing infant diet and risk of type 1 diabetes

This week, Conor McKeever (our Research Communication Officer) is reporting from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Vienna. Each day he'll be reporting on the things he's found interesting and exciting from Europe's biggest meeting of diabetes researchers.

On Monday, JDRF held a discussion that drew in experts from around the world. Entitled ‘The Role of Infant Diet in Susceptibility/Resistance to Type 1 Diabetes’, it looked for answers to a big question in type 1 diabetes research – can we run a study to explore the influence that a child’s diet has on their risk of developing the condition?

We already fund a number of studies in this area, the largest of which is TEDDY (The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young), which is following over 8,000 children over several years to see if there is an identifiable ‘trigger’ that could prompt them to develop type 1. However, because these studies take a number of years to complete, it is important for us to hear from experts in the field before embarking on a new project.

Professor Mikael Knip, whose research we reported on in July, is enthusiastic that a large scale prevention project is possible. He is looking at the role of baby formula in type 1, and has so far found that using a special kind of baby formula does not affect the development of the early indicators of type 1.

His opinion is shared by Professor Annette Ziegler, who is involved in the BABYDIET study. She has found that introducing gluten into a child’s diet at either 6 months or 12 months makes no difference to early indicators of type 1. However, Professor Ziegler pointed out that it is very difficult to make sure that people in a study follow the trial diet, or accurately report their diets, over many years – a difficulty that would need to be overcome in any future studies.

Despite these reservations, many of the researchers had found clinical studies such as TEDDY helpful in their work. Some had used its data to look at the role of gluten and coeliac disease, while others looked at probiotic use – without TEDDY, both of these investigations might have required separate, expensive trials that would not have recruited as many people.

There was also a lot of discussion about an up-and-coming area in type 1 research – the role of the ‘microbiome’, or the bacteria that live inside us. Professor Dusko Ehrlich of King’s College London pointed out that the total number of genes from these bacteria is 150 times bigger than the human genome, so we can’t afford to discount them, and early indications are that the bacteria in our gut can influence the development of type 1.

Given these opinions, it looks as though research into infant diet is going to continue to play a role in type 1 research – and that the microbiome is likely to become an increasingly important part of this work.

Photo: Sunset over Vienna by Flickr user cadoc, used under a Creative Commons licence.


Insulin pumps featured on Radio 4 – but how can you demand access if you want one?

The lack of access to insulin pumps for UK people living with type 1 diabetes was thrust into the spotlight this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme.

Presenter Justin Webb, a leading UK media voice, recognised that NHS treatment for people with type 1 diabetes is much better than it used to be. But he also highlighted that in comparison to some other nations, the UK still lags on providing access to type 1 diabetes treatment technology.

Justin, whose 14 year old son Sam lives with type 1 diabetes, said: “We can learn a thing or two about how to treat type 1 from the Americans. According to JDRF – 40 per cent of Americans with type 1 diabetes have a pump. Here it’s seven per cent overall – six per cent of adults and 19 per cent of children.”

Schoolboy Sam, who is an insulin pump user, was interviewed by his father for the programme. He said: “The pump is so good.” When asked by Justin about being one of the mere seven per cent of UK people with type 1 diabetes who have a pump to use, he jokingly said: “I feel very special.”

Dr Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Obesity and Diabetes for NHS England, said on the programme: “The barrier (to greater insulin pump access) is not the money. The barrier is more the fact that we don’t have sufficient staff with the skills to support people on pumps, to start people on pumps, and to give them the package of education they need to be safe on pumps.”

On a final note, Justin said: “The NHS is grappling with diabetes and other chronic conditions and winning some battles – but it’s not easy. My NHS, our NHS, is in a very tough fight to win the battles and convince us – the patients – that it can carry on winning those battles in the future.”

Are you currently managing your condition with multiple daily injections, but considering moving onto an insulin pump? See JDRF’s guide to insulin pumps, including how to get one, here.


Pro cycling team with type 1 diabetes saddle up for UK race – and invite others to come meet them

This weekend Team Novo Nordisk – a global professional cycling team – will be competing on British roads for the first time ever. All members of the team live with type 1 diabetes and are inviting the public to come and support them.

Racing in the Tour of Britain, the team manage their condition while training and competing in one of the world’s toughest endurance sports. Their aim is to inspire, educate and empower others that also live with type 1 diabetes.

Racing through nine stages across the country, Team Novo Nordisk will set off from Liverpool this Sunday and will finish in London on 14 September. Details of the race stages can be found here.

Phil Southerland, co-founder and CEO of Team Novo Nordisk said: “When diagnosed with diabetes, many people think it means they won’t be able to live life the way they’d hoped. Team Novo Nordisk is racing to inspire people with diabetes to set and achieve their goals, whatever they may be, and show that the first step towards this is good diabetes control.”

Elizabeth Isle, Challenge Events Fundraiser at JDRF, said: “Team Novo Nordisk is an example of how having type 1 diabetes does not have to stop you achieving great things. Only recently did an elite cyclist with the condition win the RideLondon cycle event for JDRF.”

Team Novo Nordisk will be available for photos and autographs on the first and final day of the race. They will be available from 1 to 2pm at The Strand, Liverpool, L3 1HU on 7 September or from 9 to 10am at Whitehall, London, SW1A 2ER on 14 September. To find the Team Novo Nordisk bus look for signs that say TEAM or ask where the team parking is.

JDRF’s cycle challenges are a great way to raise awareness and funds to support type 1 diabetes research. See our website for the plenty of events that you can get involved with.


Promising new drug for diabetic retinopathy hits clinical trials

A completely new treatment for diabetic retinopathy has started being tested in people for the first time. The first-in-man trials of experimental drug KVD001 began this month, focussing on assessing the safety and tolerability of the drug in treating diabetic macular oedema (a particular type of retinopathy).

The trials are being conducted at the world renowned Beetham Eye Institute (part of the Joslin Diabetes Centre at Harvard Medical School in Boston) and recruitment will gradually roll out through five centres in the US.

The company behind the drug, KalVista, is a small biotechnology company based near Southampton. JDRF has been working with KalVista on the drug for a number of years, and indeed JDRF supported the academic research that identified the biological pathway the drug is designed to target.

The only drug currently licensed specifically for treating diabetic macular oedema, is ranizumab (brand name Lucentis). This drug is designed to target a molecule called vascular endothelial growth factor and so prevent the disordered growth of blood vessels that contributes to vision loss. While treatment with Lucentis has been able to help many people with diabetic macular oedema, it doesn’t work for everyone. KVD001 is a type of molecule called a plasma kallikrein inhibitor, and targets a different biological pathway to Lucentis – so KalVista’s new drug may be able to help those for whom Lucentis does not work.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF in the UK said: ‘As complications of living with type 1 go, vision loss is one of the most feared. JDRF’s research strategy prioritises work to understand diabetic retinopathy and devise new ways to treat and prevent it for exactly this reason. So we’re excited to see KVD001, a drug that we have helped Kalvista to develop, make it to the first phase of clinical testing. There is of course still a long way to go, but if this treatment works it will provide a new option for people who develop diabetic macular oedema.'

Read more about JDRF’s work to help treat type 1 diabetes and its complications and find out how you can help to support research projects like this.