Treatment research focuses on making life with type 1 diabetes as easy and healthy as possible until we find the cure. The first treatment challenge lies in achieving good glucose control, because the better glucose control is for someone with type 1, the lower the risk of long-term complications. So JDRF is investing in research into developing new drugs and devices to treat type 1; as well as drugs, devices and diagnostic tools to find and treat any complications as soon as they appear. JDRF also funds research to understand how we can prevent complications from occurring.
Living with type 1 diabetes is a round-the-clock job – people must constantly think about how they are managing their condition. Due to the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas of people with type 1, they can no longer control the amount of glucose in their blood without injecting insulin and testing that their blood glucose is at a healthy level.
Despite significant advances in the treatment of type 1 diabetes over the past 30 years – including the development of blood glucose monitors, insulin analogues, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors – glucose control remains a tremendous challenge.
In the UK less than a third of people with type 1 diabetes are achieving a target HbA1c of less than 7.5%, and recent data demonstrate that a person with diabetes spends a very significant portion of the day hyperglycaemic (too high blood glucose levels – generally above 8 mmol/l) and over an hour every day hypoglycaemic (too low blood glucose levels – generally below 4 mmol/l). Hypoglycaemia remains the major barrier to normal blood glucose levels and severe episodes can occasionally prove fatal.
JDRF treat research goal: discovery, development and delivery of devices and drugs
The Treat Research Programme at JDRF aims to drive the discovery, development and delivery of devices and drugs that improve glucose control; reduce the burden of type 1 and improve health-related quality of life; and prevent complications.
Many potential new drugs and devices are being supported by JDRF. Two key projects are outlined below:
The development of an effective artificial pancreas is something that JDRF is supporting in many countries around the world, including the UK. It consists of a continuous glucose meter and an insulin pump that ‘talk’ to each other via a mathematical algorithm and, as a result, automatically adjust insulin levels depending on blood glucose.
The development of glucose-responsive insulin or ‘smart insulin’ is something that JDRF has supported from its inception. It involves coating insulin in such a way that it will only become active in the body when blood glucose levels rise above a certain level and will become inactive again when they fall.
Treatment and prevention of complications of type 1 diabetes is also of key importance to JDRF. For example, in the UK JDRF is supporting KalVista, a small pharmaceutical company based in Southampton that is developing drugs to treat diabetic macular oedema, a form of diabetic retinopathy. Professor Rayaz Malik, a JDRF-funded researcher based in Manchester, has discovered a novel way to test if people with type 1 have early signs of neuropathy by looking at nerve cells in their eyes under the microscope.