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

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Gallstone drug could be used to fight type 1

JDRF researchers at Stanford University have used a commonly-available drug for gallstones to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in mice.

If the results can be translated to humans with the condition, the drug’s widespread use could speed the path to its adoption.

The Stanford team, led by Dr Nadine Nagy, discovered the drug’s potential when they tried to determine how type 1 develops in the pancreas. They found that people who had been recently diagnosed with the condition had high levels of a substance called hyaluronan around their insulin-producing beta cells – much higher than either people without type 1, or people who had had the condition for many years.

Hyaluronan usually accumulates near injuries, such as sprains, when they become inflamed, and inflammation is a key part of the destructive process in autoimmune conditions. This suggested to the researchers that hyaluronan could be involved in the development of type 1.

To test whether the high levels were actually a cause - or simply an effect - of the immune attack, the researchers used a drug, called hymecromone, that blocks the body’s production of hyaluronan.

When mice that are prone to developing diabetes were given hymecromone, they stayed free from diabetes for at least a year, while those that were not quickly saw their blood glucose levels rise. However, the drug had to be taken consistently – once stopped, the effects wore off and the mice developed type 1.

Despite this, the researchers are now working with the US Food and Drug Administration to develop a clinical trial of the drug for people with type 1.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF, said: ‘Finding exciting new possibilities for existing drugs – known as repurposing – is a very smart approach as the drug’s safety is already established. We funded this study and we’re delighted it has shown promise. But it remains to be seen whether this success in mice can be replicated in people.’


Stockholm Stories – Glucagon: use it, or lose it?

This week Conor and Rachel, our Research Communication team, are reporting from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Stockholm. Each day they'll be reporting on the things they’ve found interesting and exciting from Europe's biggest meeting of diabetes researchers.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw some really interesting presentations about glucagon. Glucagon is the hormone with the opposite job to insulin: it raises your blood glucose levels when they get too low. Working together, insulin and glucagon  regulate your blood glucose levels.

People with type 1 diabetes usually know glucagon as the 'emergency rescue' for very severe hypos. But it is difficult to use, as it is tricky to store and has to be injected. So Dr Jennifer Sherr’s presentation on Tuesday generated lots of interest because her team have been able to develop a form of glucagon that is given as a simple nasal spray. Not only does this avoid the need for an injection, but because it is a powder, it can be kept at room temperature and does not need to be mixed.

Dr Sherr also emphasised that because the spray is absorbed by the blood vessels in the nose, it does not need to be breathed in, so it can still be used on people who are unconscious.

Wednesday morning saw discussion of glucagon in a very different light: is it part of the problem in managing type 1? Dr Young Lee from the University of Texas presented the results of her team's work in mice, which showed that in mice with type 1, glucose levels were high, and very variable when treated with insulin, as you'd expect. But if they also stopped glucagon from working in these mice, the mice could maintain very good blood glucose levels without the need for insulin at all!

The work is at an early stage so the team haven't been able to see if there are longer term negative consequences to this approach. In fact, a note of caution was introduced in the very next presentation where Dr Morris Birnbaum, from drug company Pfizer, showed that drugs that block glucagon action in people with type 1 didn't have quite the same dramatic effect as in mice.

But the fundamental understanding of the delicate balancing act between glucagon and insulin, and how the healthy body maintains this balance is becoming better understood. This additional knowledge means new strategies for keeping glucose levels in check in people with type 1 may be on the horizon.


Stockholm stories – interesting insulins

This week Conor and Rachel, our Research Communication team, are reporting from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Stockholm. Each day they'll be reporting on the things they’ve found interesting and exciting from Europe's biggest meeting of diabetes researchers.

Since the discovery of insulin almost 100 years ago, there have been some major leaps forward in its use as a treatment for type 1 diabetes. Longer-acting insulins were first made in the 1930s, allowing people with type 1 to manage their levels between mealtime injections. The first synthetic insulin was developed in the 1950s, as an alternative to insulin extracted from animals. And the first synthetic ‘human’ insulin – designed to be as similar as possible to the insulin produced in the body – came along in the 1980s.

Yet Tuesday’s talks at EASD showed that researchers are not resting on their laurels. Teams from Asia, Europe and the US presented their work on a variety of insulins, from ultra-long acting, to new formulations that come with a reduced risk of hypos.

First up: ultra-long acting insulin. A conventional long-acting insulin, such as Lantus, acts for around a day. Here we heard about insulins that last for between two days and a week. They are basal insulins, so still need to be used alongside regular bolus doses, but their very long duration means fewer injections, and more stable blood glucose levels, throughout the day. Some even had knock-on effects, helping people to improve their HbA1c levels without increasing the risk of night-time hypos.

Of course, insulin always comes with some risk of hypoglycaemia, which is why research into making it less common is so important. Also speaking on Tuesday, Professor Munehide Matsuhisa presented his research into different concentrations of Lantus injections. He found that injections of Lantus containing 300 units per millilitre were just as good as injections of 100 units per millilitre at helping people manage their levels, but gave a lower risk of both night-time hypos and severe hypos. Knowing this effect could help healthcare teams prescribe the best long-acting insulin, particularly for people who struggle with frequent hypos.

Until we develop a smart insulin – an insulin that is injected once a day, and manages your levels automatically, without carb counting or bolusing – all of this research into insulin could make life with type 1 easier for millions of people.


Psoriasis drug could protect insulin-producing cells in type 1 diabetes

JDRF researchers in the US have found that alefacept, a psoriasis drug that targets the immune system, could help keep insulin-producing cells safe in people with type 1 diabetes.

The results come from a two-year clinical trial of the drug in people who were newly diagnosed with type 1. The same team previously reported encouraging results in 2013 but now, 15 months after the last dose of alefacept, people who were given the drug needed to take less insulin day-to-day, and had higher levels of a protein called C-peptide – a by-product of insulin production – in their blood, than people given a placebo.

This suggests they were making more of their own insulin than people who did not take alefacept, despite both groups having had type 1 for more than two years.

When the researchers compared the levels of immune cells between the two groups, people who had taken alefacept had higher levels of cells that regulate the immune system, and lower levels of cells that are known to attack the pancreas in type 1.

Taken together, it appears the drug helped keep insulin-producing cells healthy by altering the immune system, reducing its ability to attack.

Dr Gerald Nepom, director of the Immune Tolerance Network, which conducted the trial, is cautiously optimistic about the next stage of the research: ‘Achieving long-term benefit following a short course of therapy is a challenging goal.’

‘Detailed analysis of the immune cell types in the blood of those who responded to the treatment will help us identify the best way to improve this type of immune therapy for people with type 1 diabetes and potentially other autoimmune conditions.’

Conor McKeever, Research Communication Officer at JDRF in the UK, commented: ‘It’s always exciting to see research using an existing drug because if it works, the path to getting the drug to people with type 1 should be clearer and quicker. We’ll be watching with interest to see what results come out of the next stage of the study.’

The results were published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.


Behind the headlines: a laser-powered blood glucose test?

You may have seen the news today about a device that could check a person’s blood glucose levels without the need for fingerprick testing. Instead, the device uses a low-powered laser to measure blood glucose levels through the skin.

At the moment, the device, which is being developed at the University of Leeds, is in the early stages of testing: it is currently the size of a shoe box and has only been tested in a trial of 12 people. However if the results from the prototype are promising – the Leeds team believes they are – a smaller, more portable version could be developed to undergo a further round of testing.

This may even take the form of a device that continuously monitors blood glucose, according to Professor Gin Jose, who led the study: ‘Currently, we are piloting a bench top version in our clinical investigations but aim to develop two types of devices for the market. One will be a finger-touch device similar to a computer mouse. The other will be a wearable version for continuous monitoring.’

Conor McKeever, Research Communication Officer at JDRF in the UK, commented: 'It's great that scientists are innovating with different techniques to make life easier for people living with type 1 - we’ll be watching with interest to see how the team turns this prototype into new devices.’

‘However, much larger clinical trials of these devices will be necessary before any regulatory agency will consider them equivalent to fingerprick testing.'


Leicestershire schoolgirl to meet singer from chart-topping band Haim in Washington D.C. as she joins more than 160 children at the JDRF 2015 Children’s Congress

Rock star Este Haim will join more than 160 children, ranging in age from 4 to 17, from across the United States and the world for the JDRF 2015 Children’s Congress.

The event will be held from today until Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

While on Capitol Hill the child Delegates will call for urgent action to ensure funding for medical research and access to improved therapies for type 1 diabetes – a condition that affects all the young Delegates and the celebrity role models in attendance at the event. 

Leicestershire schoolgirl Millie Hainge, who has already delivered her own manifesto to Parliament and visited 10 Downing Street, is attending what promises to be an exciting and useful event. 13-year-old Millie, from Hinkley, is fully deserving of this opportunity. She has been an impressive and commited supporter of JDRF since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011 at the age of nine. In addition to visiting 10 Downing Street and Parliament, Millie has been on ITV's flagship 'Daybreak' and BBC Radio Leicestershire to raise the profile of type 1 diabetes. 

Este Haim is bassist and singer in the Grammy-nominated band Haim.  The debut album from Haim, made up of sisters Este, Danielle and Alana reached number 1 in the UK in 2013. Este was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 14 years old.

Joining the celebrities at the event will be JDRF’s President and CEO, Derek Rapp, JDRF’s Chief Scientific Officer, Richard Insel, and JDRF’s Chief Mission Officer and Vice President of Research, Aaron Kowalski. 

“We are so excited to welcome the celebrity advocates who will join us at JDRF’s Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C. in July,” said Aaron Kowalski. “Through their daily lives as leaders in their professions, they show us every day that despite the many challenges of living with type 1 diabetes, one can achieve one’s dreams, and together through advocacy we can create a world without type 1 diabetes.”

JDRF Children’s Congress, one of the most powerful advocacy events on Capitol Hill, has been held every other year since 1999.

Delegates will thank Congress for its renewal of the Special Diabetes Program, which accounts for one-third of all US federal research for type 1 diabetes, and call for Medicare access to life-changing diabetes technologies.

As well as its activities in Washington D.C, JDRF interacts with governments around the globe to bring us closer to cure for type 1 diabetes. Get involved with our work with UK parliamentarians.


Artificial pancreas on display in Science Museum as an example of future medical life-changers for those with type 1 diabetes

For the first time in the UK, the public will be able to view up close an artificial pancreas after it was announced London’s prestigious Science Museum will be displaying the emerging and ground-breaking device for the next three months.

An artificial pancreas is being developed by a team of JDRF-supported researchers in the University of Cambridge and will be situated in the 'Who Am I?' exhibition. This exhibition includes many other intriguing objects, ‘provocative’ artworks and hands-on displays.

The Science Museum is among a small group of museums with a great deal of focus on the future as well as the past; investigating historic moments and trends in science but also with an emphasis on the present and future of science and scientific developments. The artificial pancreas is being displayed as something that will change the lives of many people in the near-future.

An artificial pancreas is a ground-breaking feat of technology that could do the job of a healthy pancreas by providing the insulin required to the body, adjusting to the body's changing needs automatically on a minute-to minute basis.

Comprised of three elements:  an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor and an algorithm, the artificial pancreas promises to radically improve the quality of life for people with type 1 diabetes.

There is much more information on the artificial pancreas available on the JDRF website. To find out more about the possibilities on the horizon as it moves closer to being available and how it might affect you, take a look through the resources below:


Combined treatment for type 1 diabetes could stop the immune system in its tracks

JDRF researchers in California and Italy have successfully used ‘gene therapy’ to reverse the immune attack behind type 1 diabetes in mice.

Mice that received the treatment not only kept their remaining insulin-producing beta cells, but also stabilised their blood glucose levels without external insulin.

The researchers, led by Professor Maria Grazia Roncarolo, developed the treatment by combining two kinds of therapy that have shown promise for treating autoimmune conditions in the past. The first, gene therapy, saw them transfer part of a gene involved in insulin production into liver cells. This spurred the mice’s immune systems into stopping any rogue immune cells that might try to kill off insulin-producing cells. As a result, no more of these rogue cells were able to infiltrate the pancreas, even up to 33 weeks after the therapy. In comparison, mice that did not receive gene therapy had lost 80% of their insulin-producing cells after 33 weeks.

However, this part of the treatment did not reduce the number of immune cells present – it only maintained it. To allow the mice to restore their blood glucose levels, the researchers then used a single dose of a drug that can kill off immune cells. After this, 75% of the mice had blood glucose levels that stayed low for many weeks without needing external insulin.

The drug, called a monoclonal antibody, is often used after organ transplants to stop the immune system rejecting the organ. But there are issues with using these drugs continuously, as the body needs its immune system to fight off illnesses. So the fact that the treatment only needed a single dose – thanks to the addition of the gene therapy – is very promising.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF in the UK, said: ‘Over the last few years our understanding of how the immune system works in health and in type 1 diabetes has grown enormously. This innovative study has come up with a novel way of helping the immune system bring the attack on insulin producing beta cells under control, and even reverse it.

‘Gene therapy treatments are beginning to be tested in people now, so despite a long research journey ahead, approaches like this one may one day be able to help people with type 1 diabetes.'

The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.


Ride to Cure Diabetes raises impressive £15,000 – with more to come

JDRF's annual Ride to Cure Diabetes event in London has raised nearly £15,000. The event took place for the seventh year on 12 June 2015 outside the iconic Royal Exchange building in the City of London. Teams are still competing for the top fundraising prize and many companies offer matched giving to double the team fundraising total.

Energy was high, and the competitive spirit was alive under the marquee as 27 teams competed against each other over two sessions to see which team could peddle the furthest in 40 minutes. The team champions this year were Sweet Spin Music from Schroders, who peddled a total distance of 29,993m. The King of the Ride was Barry O’Sullivan who rode 6,451m and the Queen of the Ride was Emma-Lea Davis with a distance of 5,497m.

There were 16 volunteers hand to make sure the entire day ran smoothly, and we couldn’t have done it without their help. A big thank you to our sponsors AIG, as well as BOOM Cycle, whose MCs kept the crowd energised and excited.

Elizabeth Rowley, Regional Fundraiser for London, said: 'We’re so glad that this event is able to raise more vital funds for type 1 diabetes research year-on-year and hope next year’s event will be bigger and better than ever! '


The Duchess of Cornwall is guest of honour at type 1 diabetes charity event

The Duchess of Cornwall  was guest of honour at a special charity preview of Art Antiques London Party in the Park in support of type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.

Her Royal Highness, who became President of the charity in 2012, met guests including music icon Boy George, Hollywood and stage actor Rory Kinnear, Emmy-award winning actress Susan Hampshire, Downton Abbey creator Lord Fellowes and his wife Lady Fellowes, Olympic gold-medallist Amy Williams MBE and Olympic gold-medallist Ben Ainslie CBE. Her Royal Highness also met Home Secretary Theresa May, who announced two years ago that she had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Art Antiques London Party in the Park is an annual event held in Kensington Gardens to showcase collections of traditional and contemporary art, antiques and jewellery from more than 70 exhibitors.

Boy George treated last night's guests to a vocal performance which demonstrated the talent that has seen him sell over 50 million albums in his lifetime. 

The singer, who recently won an Ivor Novello award for outstanding contribution to British music, said: “Much of my music is about positivity and joy – and my charity work is done in the same spirit. JDRF is a special organisation supporting vital research into type 1 diabetes.”

Boy George spoke to the crowd about a the diagnosis of a close friend’s child with type 1 diabetes, saying “I get it. I see what she goes through.”
The event was staged for the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF to boost its mission to find the cure for the condition, through the support of world-class class scientific research in the UK and abroad.

The Duchess of Cornwall first became involved with the charity when she met JDRF supporters affected by type 1 diabetes in Cambridge in 2012. She has subsequently met talented JDRF-funded researchers at University College Hospital in London and at the University of Dundee.

Lord Fellowes, known to his friends as Julian, is committed to using his profile to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes and JDRF. Last year, he supported a JDRF fundraising dinner at Highclere Castle, Hampshire, where Downton Abbey is filmed. He also allowed Downton Abbey’s ‘Atticus Aldridge’ character to be named through a 2013 auction for the charity.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF in the UK, said: “What a spectacularly successful evening. We are so grateful to our President, the Duchess of Cornwall, for joining us, for her ongoing and incredibly valuable support. Thank you also to everyone who came along.”

She added: “JDRF works across the UK and the wider world for a day when type 1 diabetes no longer exists. The cure will be found – it’s just a question of time, money and excellent research.” 


Music legend Boy George to sing for JDRF and type 1 diabetes research

New Romantic icon, artist and DJ Boy George will attend and perform at Art Antiques London Party in the Park, in Kensington on Wednesday (June 10).

The auction event will support JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charity, in its mission to find the cure for type 1 diabetes.

Boy George has sold over 50 million albums and has appeared in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Britons of All Time. As well as achieving worldwide fame with Culture Club, he is one of the most influential DJs in the history of house music.

Speaking to JDRF, he said: “Much of my music is about positivity and joy – and my charity work is done in the same spirit. JDRF is a special organisation supporting vital research into type 1 diabetes.”

Michael Connellan of JDRF said: “We are utterly thrilled and very thankful to have Boy George supporting us. His support will help us raise greater national awareness of type 1 diabetes and the challenges it brings.”

Boy George is only one of a host of stars attending the June 10 event. Those who wish to support JDRF by attending the event should click here to find out more.


Duchess of Cornwall to grace JDRF event

Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall is to attend a JDRF party in her role as President of the charity.

The Duchess of Cornwall became President of JDRF in 2012 after meeting JDRF supporters affected by type 1 diabetes in Cambridge. She has subsequently shown her commitment to the role by publically meeting JDRF-funded researchers at University College Hospital in London and at the University of Dundee in Scotland. The visits garnered substantial media interest.

The visit to Dundee saw Her Royal Highness learn about the work of Professor Rory McCrimmon, who is undertaking world-leading research into ways to combat hypoglycaemia. Speaking at the time, JDRF Chief Executive Karen Addington said: “We are deeply grateful for her ongoing support as President. Her presence provided a fantastic opportunity to showcase the vital research that Professor McCrimmon and his team do.”

The Duchess of Cornwall will attend JDRF’s Art Antiques London Party in the Park, in Kensington, on June 10. Lord Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, and Emmy Award-winning actress Susan Hampshire will also be present.

Those who wish to support JDRF by attending the event should click here to find out more.


Wacky ‘Scumrun’ car rally raises an amazing £126,000 for JDRF

A spectacular four-day charity rally is on track to raise a stunning £126,000 to support JDRF's type 1 diabetes research – and has seen a lot of fun and mischief on the way.

Over 300 participants and their wacky decorated cars took part in the Scumrun car rally, which saw petrolheads drive old motors – under £500 in value – onto a ferry at Dover and then on to a Continental route that included stops at Nice, Zurich and the Nürburgring.

The launch event on May 14 in Dover was attended by celebrity ‘voice of motoring’ Sally Traffic – well known to listeners of BBC Radio 2 for her travel reports. Voted as one of the most attractive female voices on UK radio in a Radio Times poll, she said: 'I’m delighted to be supporting the tenth year of Scumrun for JDRF!  I’ve heard many adventurous travel tales as my time as a traffic broadcaster.  This is a great opportunity for people to have theirs – all while raising money for an important cause.'

Louise Ingham of JDRF said: 'Thank you so much to the Scumrun organisers, participants, Sally Traffic and all those who helped raise this phenomenal amount.'


Seasonal switch: Genes behind type 1 diabetes turn on and off across the year

JDRF researchers at the University of Cambridge have found evidence that our immune systems change with the seasons – a finding that suggests a seasonal link to type 1 diabetes.

Scientists have known for some time that diagnosis rates of various conditions, including cardiovascular disease and type 1 diabetes, vary with the seasons. However, this is the first time that researchers have shown that this may be down to seasonal changes in how our immune systems function.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, shows that the activity of almost a quarter of our genes differs according to the time of year, with some more active in winter and others more active in summer. This seasonality affects our immune cells and the composition of our blood and fat tissue.

‘This is a really surprising – and serendipitous – discovery as it could change how we identify the effects of the genes behind type 1 diabetes,’ said Professor John Todd, Director of the JDRF/Wellcome Trust Diabetes and Inflammation Laboratory at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research.

‘In some ways, it’s obvious – it helps explain why so many diseases, from heart disease to mental illness, are much worse in the winter months – but no one had appreciated the extent to which this actually occurred. The implications for how we treat conditions like type 1 diabetes, and even how we plan our research studies, could be profound.’

An international team, led by researchers from the JDRF/Wellcome Trust Diabetes and Inflammation Laboratory, examined blood samples from over 16,000 people living in both the northern and southern hemispheres, in countries including the UK, USA, Iceland, Australia and The Gambia.

They found that thousands of genes were either more or less active depending on what time of year the samples were taken. One gene known as ARNTL was particularly interesting as previous studies have found that this gene suppresses inflammation, the body’s response to infection. The gene was found to be less active in winter, suggesting levels of inflammation should be higher during those months. Inflammation is a risk factor for a range of diseases – including autoimmune conditions such as type 1 – so it may be that in winter, the 'threshold' at which these conditions could be triggered could be more easily reached in those at greatest risk. 

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF in the UK, said: ‘We have long known there are more diagnoses of type 1 diabetes in winter. This study begins to reveal why. It identifies a biological mechanism we didn’t previously know of, which leaves the body seasonally more prone to the autoimmune attack seen in type 1 diabetes.’

‘While we all love winter sun, flying south for the whole of each winter isn’t something anyone can practically recommend as a way of preventing type 1 diabetes. But this new insight does open new avenues of research that could help untangle the complex web of genetic and environmental factors behind a diagnosis.’

Image: Four Seasons from Wikimedia Commons user Bdk, used under a Creative Commons licence.


JDRF announced as main charity partner for Great Scottish Events

JDRF is delighted to have been announced as the main charity partner for Great Scottish Events this summer.

The event takes place on Sunday 21 June 2015 at Holyrood Park, and allows JDRF supporters to have exclusive FREE ENTRY to any of the events on the day by pledging to raise a minimum of £50 for JDRF. Join the JDRF team today by registering here.

The events on the day include a fantastic mixture of runs and walks for all ages and abilities.  These include:

  • Great Scottish Summer Runs 5k & 10k – Start time 9.30am
  • The Great Scottish Walk 20k – Start time 10.00am
  • The Great Scottish Walk 10k – Start time 11am
  • The Golden Mile Walk – Start time 11.30am (Walk or stroll one, two, or three miles – you choose the distance)
  • The Great Scottish Toddle – Start time 1pm (For children under six years of age with infants in buggies also welcome)

This promises to be a fantastic day out for the whole family with plenty of food and entertainment available on the day – why not grab the picnic blanket and the whole family and have a day out with activities available for kids of any age, teenagers, parents and grandparents to get involved in.

It really doesn’t matter what level of ability you have, there’s an activity for beginners up to advanced runners and walkers. To make it all worthwhile, you’re not only raising money for JDRF but you’ll also get a medal and a goody bag when you cross the finish lines.

To take part and secure one of JDRF’s free entry places click here to register for the event and pledge to raise a minimum of £50 sponsorship to help support type 1 diabetes research.

Once you have registered for the event we will be in touch and will provide you with a JDRF fundraising pack to help you raise as much money to help us find the cure for type 1 diabetes.

For more information about the event get in touch with Catriona Morrice, Senior Fundraiser at or on 07908 155481.


Immune research targets causes of type 1 diabetes

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have identified a new way in which our immune systems are regulated – a discovery that could help us tackle the causes of type 1 diabetes.

Normally, the immune system carefully controls its response to infection and disease to avoid damaging other parts of the body. However, in autoimmune conditions such as type 1, the immune system becomes less well-regulated, allowing it to attack healthy cells and organs as though they were infections.  

This new study looked at why this happens. The team discovered a mechanism that determines whether immune cells can move from the blood into healthy tissue. They believe a failure of this regulation process could contribute to autoimmune conditions such as type 1 and rheumatoid arthritis.

In particular, the researchers saw how one molecule is vital to this whole mechanism. By adding the molecule to immune cells from people with either of these two conditions, the team were able to regain control of the immune cells, stopping them from entering healthy organs in the body.

Professor Ed Rainger, from the University of Birmingham, explained: ‘Our discovery of this new regulatory pathway is very exciting. Not only does it reveal new ways in which our bodies control inflammation, it also indicates that we may be able design new drugs to reverse the loss of this pathway.’

He added: ‘The fact that the new pathway is relevant to both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, which are quite different conditions, implies a broad applicability to many chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.’

The researchers now hope to test their findings by running clinical trials of drugs that can target this mechanism. If successful, such treatments could be used to disrupt the immune attack that causes type 1, potentially forming part of a cure for the condition.

The research was published in the journal Nature Medicine.


Thanks, America – massive $300m investment for type 1 diabetes research agreed by US government

The US Senate has passed legislation for a huge $300m (£200m) funding pot for type 1 diabetes research.

In a boost for JDRF’s mission to find the cure for type 1 diabetes, US Senators approved the country’s Special Diabetes Program (SDP) for two additional years.

This ensures $150m (£100m) can be spent in each of the next two years supporting cutting-edge type 1 diabetes research through the country’s National Institutes of Health.

President Obama is shortly expected to sign the funding into law at the White House.

The Special Diabetes Program has been funded by the US since 1998. Since its inception it has demonstrated results in type 1 diabetes research and has enabled scientists to make significant advances in prevention studies and treatment improvements. These have included the artificial pancreas project.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive at JDRF in the UK, said: 'The renewal of the Special Diabetes Program is excellent news for type 1 diabetes research globally. We congratulate the thousands JDRF of supporters across the United States for approaching their local senators and representatives about why they most vote to renew it.'

She added: 'With our #CountMeIn campaign, JDRF in the UK is calling on candidates standing for the 2015 General Election to take inspiration from across the Atlantic, and to commit to supporting type 1 diabetes medical research if they are elected.'

Join us – learn more about the #CountMeIn campaign.


Researchers harness 'nothing to see here' protein to improve cell transplants

JDRF researchers have found a protein that can protect insulin-producing beta cells from the immune system, potentially paving the way for beta cell transplants that don’t require anti-rejection drugs.

Professor Mark Poznansky and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital had been studying the protein, known as CXCL12, for many years because of its role in the immune system. It has a repellent effect that drives immune cells away from the area where they are produced so that they can fight infection in the rest of the body.

The team then turned this effect on its head, using the protein to repel the immune cells from the beta cells they mistakenly try to attack in type 1 diabetes. When they encased beta cells in a gel coating that contained the protein, and implanted them into mice with type 1, the researchers found the mice produced their own insulin for at least 300 days. This was over 6 times longer than in mice where the cells’ gel coating did not contain any of the protein.

If the work continues to prove successful, it could be used alongside JDRF beta cell research (such as that announced by Professor Doug Melton in October last year), to generate large numbers of implantable, insulin-producing cells that are kept safe from the immune system. This concept, known as encapsulation, would offer people with type 1 the opportunity to regain their insulin-producing cells, eliminating the need for insulin injections and carb counting.

Commenting on the finding, Professor Poznansky said: ‘The encouraging picture painted by our studies to date has led us to the next step in our research. JDRF is now funding a 2-year pilot study to investigate whether this approach of including CXCL12 in the gel capsule will work when greater numbers of capsules are implanted into larger animals.’

He continued: ‘One of the most exciting aspects of CXCL12 is that, if the protein proves safe and effective, its applications could go beyond use in encapsulated cell therapies: it might also be useful in developing drugs to block the autoimmune attack on still-active beta cells in the early stage of the condition, slowing or ultimately preventing the progression to insulin dependency.’

The research was published in the American Journal of Transplantation.


Injection of millions: massive investment follows Dr Melton’s stunning stem cell research breakthrough for type 1 diabetes

You’d be forgiven for suspecting that things sometimes go a bit quiet after global headlines shout about a type 1 diabetes research breakthrough.

But JDRF’s Harvard hero Doug Melton, whose work turning stem cells into insulin-producing beta cells made worldwide news last October, has announced two massive new business collaborations designed to bring his research to fruition sooner.

The first, which has raised £30 million from several companies including Medtronic, will aim to develop beta cells that can be transplanted into the body.  In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys these insulin-producing beta cells, so a procedure that could give them back to people could mean an end to insulin injections and blood glucose testing. It’s why we, too, are funding Dr Melton as part of our encapsulation research.

The second collaboration, a partnership with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, will see researchers study the beta cells to learn more about their biology, giving us new insights into how type 1 diabetes develops. The cells will also be tested against many of the drugs developed by AstraZeneca, to see if any could be used to cure or even prevent the condition.

Until now, beta cell research in both of these fields had been hindered by a lack of donated pancreases, and by the more lengthy process normally used to grow the cells in the lab. Work by Melton, and by other JDRF-funded researchers such as Timothy Kieffer, should therefore help speed up the process of turning lab-based discoveries into treatments for people with type 1 diabetes.

Dr Clare McVicker, Director of Research Advocacy at JDRF in the UK, said: ‘A £30m investment is a huge stamp of approval for Dr Melton’s research. Business only backs scientific developments when it sees true potential – and this could change type 1 diabetes treatment globally.’

Read more about Dr Melton here.


Behind the headlines: 'more children showing early signs of diabetes complications'

The media is reporting that 'more children are showing early signs of serious diabetes complications.'

These headlines – clearly alarming for parents of children with type 1 diabetes – stem from today’s release of the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit.

The report actually shows that long-term blood glucose control among UK children with type 1 diabetes is improving, not worsening, and this fact behind the headlines is heartening. The increase in children showing early indications of future potential complications is instead due to the fact that increasing number of children are developing the condition. Individual children with the condition are not increasingly at risk.

Of further reassurance to families affected by type 1 diabetes is the fact (stated by the report itself) that early signs of eye, kidney and foot complications in children can be reversed by good control of blood glucose levels.

Sarah Johnson, Director of Policy and Communications at type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, admitted aspects of the report were concerning. She said: 'Although we’re pleased to see an increase in the number of children achieving in-range blood glucose control, we are alarmed by the numbers showing signs of complications at such a young age. Improvements in treatment and early interventions to prevent these complications need to be prioritised urgently by the NHS, and healthcare professionals must be given the help and resource they need to help their young patients manage a serious, life-long condition.'

Some of the media headlines also focused on a detail of the report that stated 'one in four children over the age of 12 who have type 1 diabetes are classed as obese.'

She added: 'We also need to remember that obesity is not a cause of type 1 diabetes. Children with type 1 diabetes have similar rates of obesity as children in the general population – they don’t live in a bubble and are subject to all of the influences and issues that affect their friends and classmates.  Absolutely weight is a factor in helping achieve good blood glucose control, but nothing these children did, or did not do, caused their immune system to attack their pancreas.'