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

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Researchers develop microchip to diagnose type 1

JDRF-funded researchers have designed a cheap, microchip-based test that can diagnose type 1 diabetes more quickly than ever before.

The test detects the presence of islet autoantibodies in a drop of blood. These proteins indicate that the immune system is primed to attack the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas – and are present in type 1 but not type 2.

Because of this, the test could be used after a diagnosis of ‘diabetes’, to distinguish whether a person has type 1 or type 2, potentially saving them from being misdiagnosed and receiving the wrong treatment.

The portability and low cost of the chip mean it could also be used more widely than current tests, so healthcare providers would no longer have to choose between a slower lab-based test and assuming which type of diabetes their patient has, based on their age and lifestyle.

‘With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly, we will also understand diabetes better,’ said Professor Brian Feldman of Stanford University, who led the research.

Because the chip tests for autoantibodies, which are present even before a person develops the symptoms of type 1, it could allow healthcare providers to monitor people at risk and give them treatment much sooner than is currently possible.

This could become even more important in future with the development of preventative treatments, as these would be most effective before a person loses their ability to produce insulin. Such treatments are a priority area of JDRF research, as part of our strategy to cure, treat and prevent type 1.

‘The auto-antibodies truly are a crystal ball,’ commented Feldman. ‘Even if you don’t have diabetes yet, if you have one autoantibody linked to diabetes in your blood, you are at significant risk; with multiple autoantibodies, it’s more than 90 per cent risk.

‘There is great potential to capture people before they develop the disease, and prevent diabetes or prevent its complications by starting therapy early,’ he added.

The research was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Image courtesy of Stanford University/Norbert von der Groeben


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.


Member of the Royal Family recognises JDRF research

We are delighted and excited to let you know that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall will visit The Cambridge Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in February to learn more about the work of JDRF. She will meet with researchers who are working to prevent type 1 diabetes and its complications, as well as speaking to children with type 1 who have been involved with clinical trials.

Her Royal Highness will be welcomed by HM Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Mrs Jane Lewin Smith JP, before touring the facility with Karen Addington, Chief Executive at JDRF, and Professor David Dunger, of The University of Cambridge.

The Duchess of Cornwall will also meet with Dr Roman Hovorka and Dr Tim Tree to learn about their JDRF funded research.  Dr Hovorka is working to develop a Closed Loop Artificial Pancreas whilst Dr Tree will be discussing the Diabetes Genes, Autoimmunity and Prevention (DGAP) Project. 

This visit will be a chance for Her Royal Highness to decide how she might like to be associated with JDRF in the future. We are delighted to have this opportunity to meet with her as she only works with charities that she has personally selected, and look forward to telling you more about the visit at a later date.


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.


Meeting of minds: researchers agree key steps for preventing type 1

What will it take to make tangible progress on the goal of preventing type 1 diabetes before symptoms emerge? This is the question posed at a workshop in October 2010, organised by JDRF, the UK Science and Innovation Network, and the Wellcome Trust.

Over two days, European experts of type 1 diabetes research debated this topic. Drawing on clinical and laboratory expertise and an encyclopaedic knowledge of type 1 diabetes research, the participants built up a clear picture of where we are now in the journey toward being able to prevent type 1.

The current issue of the scientific journal Diabetic Medicine carries an expert position statement (PDF download) setting out the three key recommendations to come out of this workshop.

First is that diabetes registries and natural history studies (such as the one being carried out by the TrialNet team in Bristol) are vital. The information they gather about the very earliest events in the process of developing type 1 diabetes are vital to researchers looking to develop treatments that can modify these processes.

Second is that we need to gain a much deeper understanding of the roles played by our genes and our environment in the development of type 1. Studies like TEDDY will be key to progress in this area.

Third, our new understanding that there may be different ‘varieties’ of type 1 diabetes must be applied when designing future studies. By different ‘varieties’ we mean that at the level of genes and cells, slightly different changes may occur between one person with type 1 and another, even though the result is the same. Therefore, ways to prevent the condition from developing may need to be different for these different varieties. So trials in the future may need to build in further molecular testing to give scientists this extra level of information.

Read more about the TrialNet and TEDDY studies and JDRF’s approach to prevention research.


JDRF partners with Selecta Biosciences to develop possible vaccine for type 1 diabetes

JDRF has announced a new research collaboration to support the development of a vaccine which may help better treat and potentially prevent type 1 diabetes.

The partnership with Selecta Biosciences will see JDRF provide expertise and financial support, with the goal of applying Selecta’s vaccine technology toward the development of vaccines for type 1 diabetes.

Selecta is working on a type of therapy called an ‘antigen-specific tolerogenic vaccine’. This is designed to specifically target the parts of the immune system that cause type 1 diabetes, without damaging the rest of the immune system. In addition to its potential in preventing type 1 diabetes, this type of diabetes vaccine could have other benefits. For example, they could be used in conjunction with other therapies to preserve remaining beta cell function in individuals recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It may also help with regeneration and replacement therapies, and be used to protect newly regenerated or transplanted insulin-producing beta cells in established type 1 diabetes

JDRFI Chief Scientific Officer said: “We believe vaccine research is one of the most promising approaches to prevent or halt the beta cell-specific autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes. And we are excited to be teaming up with Selecta to support the development of this next-generation of vaccine technology.”

The research collaboration agreement between JDRF and Selecta is part of JDRF's Industry Discovery and Development Partnership (IDDP) program. Through this, JDRF partners with pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies to prioritise and speed the discovery, development, and delivery of therapies and devices for type 1 diabetes.


Study suggests gluten does not cause type 1 diabetes

Avoiding feeding gluten to babies who are at high genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes does not substantially reduce their chances of developing the condition, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care.

A total of 150 babies who had a close family member with type 1 diabetes, and specific high risk genes, were fed gluten for the first time either at six months or 12 months old. They were then monitored for three years by researchers who looked for telltale antibodies that often appear before the onset of type 1 diabetes.

When compared with a control group, who were not instructed to follow a particular diet, there was no statistical difference in the numbers of children who later went on to develop type 1 diabetes.

JDRF-funded researchers are continuing to investigate the possible causes of type 1 diabetes through the TEDDY study. This collaborative project is following approximately 7000 children from birth until they reach age 15. Researchers will take blood samples and keep records of the children’s health, diet and other life experiences. This should help shed light on the various triggers that cause type 1 diabetes.

You can read the full Diabetes Care paper here (subscription required). 

Read more about the TEDDY study.


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