Research is at the heart of the mission to reach a world where diabetes can do no harm.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted scientists’ work and punched a huge hole in medical research. The next five years are critical. Without the right action, the consequences for the future research landscape and a generation of scientists could be profound.
Identification of a new player in type 1 diabetes risk
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune attack of insulin-producing beta-cells. While genetics and the environment are known to play important roles, the underlying factors explaining why the immune system mistakenly recognize beta-cells as foreign is not known. Now, Dr. Delong has discovered a potential explanation. He found that proteins called Hybrid Insulin Peptides (HIPs) are found on beta-cells of people with type 1 diabetes and are recognized as foreign by their immune cells. Even after diabetes onset, immune cells are still present in the blood that attack these HIPs.1
A novel molecule to improve continuous glucose monitoring
To create a fully automated artificial pancreas, it is critical to be able to quantify blood glucose in an accurate and stable manner. Current ways of continuously monitoring glucose are dependent on the activity of an enzyme which can change over time, meaning the potential for inaccurate readings and need for frequent replacement or calibration. Dr. Wang has developed a novel molecule that uses a different, nonenzymatic approach to continuously monitor glucose levels in the blood. This new molecule is stable over long periods of time and can be easily integrated into miniaturized systems.1
A new target to improve insulin sensitivity
The hormone insulin normally acts like a ‘key’, traveling through the blood and opening the cellular ‘lock’ to enable the entry of glucose into muscle and fat cells. However, in people with type 2 diabetes, the lock on the cellular door has, in effect, been changed, meaning insulin isn’t as effective. This phenomenon is called insulin resistance. Scientists have long sought to understand what causes insulin resistance and develop therapies to enable insulin to work correctly again. This year, Dr. Summers determined an essential role for a molecule called ceramides as a driver of insulin resistance in mice. He also presented a new therapeutic strategy for lowering ceramides and reversing insulin resistance. His findings were published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals, Science.1
Investigating the loss of postmenopausal protection from cardiovascular disease in women with type 1 diabetes
On average, women have a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to men. However, research has shown that this protection is lost in women with type 1 diabetes. The process of menopause increases rates of heart disease in women, but it is not known how menopause affects women with type 1 diabetes in regard to risk for developing heart disease. In a study published this year, Dr. Snell-Bergeon found that menopause increased risk markers for heart disease in women with type 1 diabetes more than women without diabetes.1
Identification of a potential therapy for diabetic neuropathy related to type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that is one of the most common complications affecting people with diabetes. For some, neuropathy can be mild, but for others, it can be painful and debilitating. Additionally, neuropathy can affect the spinal cord and the brain. Effective clinical treatments for neuropathy are currently lacking. Recently, Dr. Calcutt reported results of a new potential therapy that could bring hope to the millions of people living with diabetic neuropathy. His study found that a molecule currently in clinical trials for the treatment of depression may be valuable for diabetic neuropathy, particularly the type affecting the brain.1
1 Recent Advances | ADA [Internet]. Diabetes.org. 2021 [cited 11 February 2021]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org/research/research-impact/recent-advances