Cookies on the JDRF website

Our website uses cookies to make your experience as great as possible. By continuing to use the website, we will assume that you agree to the use of cookies on the website. However, if you would like to change your cookie settings, please visit the website of The Information Commissioner's Office to find out how to control or delete cookies on your browser.

All news

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

Displaying cure


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.


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.


New JDRF-funded research projects announced

Dr Parth Narendran at the University of Birmingham will test if there is a way of stopping the cells of the immune system that target beta cells from entering the pancreas in the first place. Preventing the immune attack from getting started is one of JDRF’s key priorities. As the cells of the immune system usually reside in the blood, they need to pass through the walls of the blood vessels to get to the pancreas in order to wreak havoc.

Dr Narendran and his team have found that a molecule called PEPITEM appears to block exactly this passage of the cells that target beta cells for destruction through the walls of the blood vessels. If this proof of concept study proves successful, this could present an exciting new opportunity for protecting insulin-producing cells from immune destruction – both in people at risk of developing type 1 and people already living with the condition.

Dr Tim Tree at King’s College London is looking at specific cells in the immune system that may offer protection against type 1. In this project he will investigate regulatory T cells, which are supposed to keep the immune system under control. Previous work has identified a group of these regulatory T cells that are specifically involved in controlling the body’s immune response to insulin-producing beta cells, and people with more of these so-called ‘ISIS’ regulatory T cells seem to have a higher level of protection against getting type 1.

This project will help us to understand more about ISIS regulatory T cells and find out what makes them special. That understanding will then help us to work out if there is a way we can harness the power of ISIS regulatory T cells in our quest to cure and prevent type 1 diabetes.

In a related project at King’s College London, Dr Els Henckaerts is going to use her team’s skills in stem cell biology to investigate whether she can grow new regulatory T cells capable of controlling the immune response against beta cells in her laboratory. If this proof-of-concept study yields decisive results, the cells created by the team could potentially be injected into people with, or at risk of, type 1 diabetes as a means to control the immune destruction of beta cells.

JDRF has committed over £430,000 to supporting these three projects: find out how you can help us to support them today.


Audit shows impact of diabetes

22,000 'additional' people in England and Wales died last year because of diabetes and its complications, shows the National Diabetes Audit, released today. The report noted 'The years of life lost are especially notable in people with type 1 diabetes'.

The report highlighted the significantly increased risk of heart disease for people with diabetes, who are 48% more likely to have a heart attack than people without the condition. It also showed that people with diabetes were more than 25% more likely to have a stroke and twice as likely to need dialysis or need a kidney transplant.

The risk of complications from diabetes can be reduced by achieving good long term blood glucose control, however 70% of people with type 1 diabetes, including 85% of children, are not managing to keep their long term blood glucose measurement within the target range.  There is also a 'post code lottery' of access to the technologies and treatments, like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, to help manage the condition.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF, said:

'These are worrying figures for anyone with type 1 diabetes, or who has a child or loved one living with the condition and they highlight, once again, why increased investment in research to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes and its complications, and access to the treatments that come from this research is so vital.'

Find out about JDRF's work to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes, and how you can get involved with research and campaigning for increased government focus on the condition.


Behind the Headlines: Research breakthrough as experts reverse diabetes in mice

JDRF-funded researchers in Canada have for the first time reversed type 1 diabetes in mice using human embryonic stem cells.

The team, led by Dr Timothy Kieffer, directed the stem cells most of the way towards becoming beta cells in the lab and the cells finally became mature beta cells once they were transplanted into mice.

Dr Kieffer turned stem cells into pancreatic progenitor cells which are the type of cell that becomes a beta cell and then transplanted them into mice. The environment around the pancreas of each mouse helped to turn the cells from pancreatic progenitor cells to beta cells and by five months after the transplant, the mice were producing their own insulin in response to glucose.

However, the team also needed to give the mice strong drugs to suppress their immune systems so that they would not reject the transplant.  This can be problematic for humans as it causes significant side effects, including reducing ability to fight off infections.

In type 1 diabetes, the cells in the immune system destroy the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Replacing or regenerating beta cells could give people with type 1 the ability to produce their own insulin.

However, beta cell therapies are unlikely to be a cure by themselves and will need to go hand in hand with better immune therapies that will selectively stop the part of the immune system that attacks beta cells.  In the future, this could prevent some of the side effects of beta cell transplants.

Sarah Johnson, Director of Policy and Communications  said ‘This is a step forward in our aim to be able to restore insulin production in people with type 1.  There is a lot more work to be done to build on this promising research, which is only made possible by the generosity of JDRF supporters worldwide,'

Find out more about how to support research to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes.


Behind the headlines: An end to jabs?

In the letters pages of yesterday's Mirror newspaper, you may have seen a letter to Dr Miriam asking about a vaccine that can cure type 1.

Dr Miriam gave a great response explaining that although there is a vaccine in the early stages of clinical trials, a lot more trials need to be done to prove that it works before it can be made available to people with type 1.

In the trial Dr Miriam talked about, JDRF-funded researchers are trying to determine if a fragment of molecule from insulin producing beta cells called ‘proinsulin peptide’ could be used to retrain the immune system not to attack beta cells.

So far, the research team have conducted a small safety trial in people with type 1 diabetes to make sure the treatment is safe for use in humans. This trial showed that the treatment was safe and there were also signs that it may help stop the immune system attacking beta cells. If future trials show that it works well, this treatment may be able to prevent type 1 from progressing in people who have recently been diagnosed with the condition.

Professor Mark Peakman, who is leading the trial, said ‘We are very excited about the proinsulin peptide. Results from our first trials showed that the therapy was safe and we also saw promising signs that it may be effective in turning off the immune response that attacks beta cells. We are now recruiting for a larger study to test if the vaccine does turn the immune response in people with type 1 diabetes’.

If you are interested in finding out more about taking part in these, and other clinical trials, read more about current clinical trials.


A killer link to type 1 diabetes

JDRF-funded researchers at Cardiff University have shown exactly how cells in the immune system attack the insulin producing beta cells causing type 1 diabetes for the first time.

The research team, led by Professor Andy Sewell were able to shed light on the way that a particular cell of the immune system, called killer T cells target beta cells for destruction. Their research was published today in the latest issue of the prestigious journal Nature Immunology.

Killer T cells in the pancreas are very difficult to study as it is not easy to separate them from other cells. Professor Sewell’s team have developed a completely new technique for separating these cells out from the crowd. Having isolated the killer T cells they were then able to ‘watch’ the attack on the beta cells, as you can see from the picture (the t-cells are red and the beta cells are green) This allowed them to examine exactly how the cells recognised one another in incredibly fine detail.

Killer T cells normally recognise viruses like the ‘flu’ virus in the body and destroy them. But Professor Sewell’s team have discovered that they attack beta cells in a slightly different way. This may be why the immune system’s usual safety checks that ensure healthy ‘self’ tissues are not attacked are unable to pick up and control this process in type 1 diabetes.

These findings are particularly important as how and why beta cells are destroyed is still unclear. A greater understanding of this mechanism will enable scientists to develop new drugs to halt the process - or even predict and prevent type 1 diabetes.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF said ‘We’re really excited to see the results of this work – this is the first time scientists have been able to study the fine detail of how killer T cells target insulin-producing cells in type 1 diabetes. Research like this will be fundamental to allowing scientists to develop new, specific treatments that can help people with type 1’.

Thanks to Susan Wong for providing the cells and Maja Wallberg for taking the pictures.


Pass the parcel

Could tiny packets of stem cells help people with type 1 diabetes to produce their own insulin again? JDRF has joined forces with Viacyte, a US based biotechnology company, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to help answer this question.

The organisations have come together to conduct preclinical testing of a first-of-its-kind cell therapy for type 1. The potential treatment is an innovative combination of cells and a special ‘packaging’ material. One of the unusual things about the therapy is that the cells, derived from embryonic stem cells, are not mature when they are packaged – rather they are immature human pancreatic hormone cells.

Initial tests have shown that once implanted, within their protective packaging, these immature cells develop into mature hormone producing cells, including the vital insulin producing beta cells that are missing in people with type 1. Tests in rodents have shown that once mature, these packets of cells are capable of regulating blood glucose levels.

Existing cell therapies such as islet and pancreas transplantation have the potential to cure type 1 by restoring normal islet function in people with the condition. But because there is a huge shortage of pancreatic islets from organ donors, it is important to find a replenishable supply of functional insulin-producing cells. This product, by using stem cells rather than tissue form organ donors could overcome this hurdle. Furthermore, packaging the cells in a device that creates a physical barrier around the cells (a process called "encapsulation") has the potential to protect the transplanted cells from immune rejection, and may eliminate the need for chronic immunosuppressive drugs.

The three-year series of preclinical studies being co-funded by JDRF will help prepare the information necessary to apply for regulatory approvals to study the system for safety and efficacy in people with type 1 diabetes.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF said ‘JDRF is excited to be working with Viacyte and CIRM on this pioneering project. Encapsulation technologies and stem cell therapies have fantastic potential in treating type 1 diabetes, so this type of innovation could be a huge step forward for people living with the condition.’


Behind the headlines: Cost of diabetes drugs now 8.4 per cent of annual NHS drugs bill

You may have read news about the rising costs of diabetes drugs in today’s Daily Mail and on BBC News after The NHS Information Centre released a report yesterday.

The report showed that diabetes prescriptions now account for 8.4 per cent of the entire NHS bill for primary care drugs in England.

NHS information Centre reported that a big part of the rise is due to increased use of drugs for type 2 diabetes. The next most commonly issued drugs are the injectable insulins needed to keep people with type 1, and many with type 2, alive.

The percentage increase in the total cost of prescriptions for all diabetes was four times of what was reported between 2005/6 and 2010/11. This has taken the cost of diabetes prescribing to £725 million in 2010/11.

Access to appropriate treatment and technologies is vital to people with type 1 diabetes to keep them alive and to reduce the risk of long term complications. These have both a devastating impact on the person living with the condition, and can be a significant cost to the NHS.

Ultimately, the only way to end the burden of type 1 diabetes for those living with it, their families, and the NHS, is to find the cure. Learn more about JDRF's research programme here.

You can read the full report here 


Discovering hope at Puxton Park

Debbie Young is a JDRF supporter and mother to Laura, an eight year old girl with type 1 diabetes. They both attended the JDRF Type 1 Discovery Day at Puxton Park on Saturday 7 May 2011 and Debbie has written an account of the day... 

Not being much of a scientist, when I went along to this year’s JDRF Discovery Day at Puxton Park I was prepared for the scientific presentations to go over my head. So I was mightily impressed when I realised that thanks to Dr Garry Dolton I suddenly understood the concept of T-cells and their role in the development of type 1 diabetes.

Dr Dolton is part of the T-cell Modulation Group ( at Cardiff University School of Medicine’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Biochemistry. His team is carrying out valuable research into why certain T-cells attack insulin-producing cells. Their findings could be critical on the path to preventing and reversing type 1 diabetes. Dr Dolton’s description of T-cells ‘touring the body on surveillance seeking infections and bacteria to kill,’ (mistakenly striking pancreatic beta cells en route) brought James Bond to mind. Never has the search for the cure sounded so exciting! The futuristic laser technology used to identify and track them would certainly seem at home in a 007 film. JDRF is the sole source of funding for this ground-breaking project, and Dr Dolton’s eloquent and accessible explanation was a persuasive argument to support JDRF.

But the Discovery Day was not just about the search for the cure. It also advised how best to manage diabetes until the cure is found. Sabrina Dawe, a volunteer from, gave a crystal clear explanation of the value of insulin pumps as an alternative to injection therapy. Her own son has used a pump since diagnosis at 11 months, but her explanation was measured and rational, rather than evangelical – this was no sales pitch. Instead it simply equipped the audience to make their own decisions about whether a pump would be right for them.

The Discovery Day balanced the science of type 1 diabetes and its management with coping strategies for the emotional burden that diabetes places on the individual and their family. Annabel Astle, whose daughter Mimi was diagnosed with type 1 when a baby, gave a moving but ultimately positive account of how diabetes has affected her whole family. Annabel’s husband Jeff then reported on his means of coping by taking a practical approach to fundraising. Along with Sabrina Dawe and 11 other members of ‘Team Pingu’, he ran this year’s London Marathon.

By the end of the morning the audience was left in no doubt as to the value of supporting JDRF, whatever their preferred method of fundraising. We then spent the afternoon enjoying the wonderful family facilities of Puxton Park (free admission was kindly granted to families attending the Discovery Day). The highlight was the amazing owl encounter – catch it next time if you missed it and you will remember it for the rest of your life! I was left buoyed up by the whole day and more resolved than ever to complete my mission the following weekend of running the Bristol 10k for Team Pingu. (Not sure whether I’ll ever make marathon status!)

But that night I was brought back to earth when my daughter had a severe hypo at 3am. Frightening in its intensity, it was a sobering reminder that seeking the cure for type 1 diabetes is a serious, urgent business.

I am thankful to JDRF for all that they do. Their search for the cure continues behind closed doors as we go about our daily lives managing our children’s condition. JDRF then open the doors to us on these occasions and gives us hope for their future. 

For further information on JDRF's Type 1 Discovery Days and other similar events, please visit