The 10 Biggest Research Breakthroughs of 2019
2019 has been a year of milestones in our mission to cure, treat and prevent T1D – with huge advances in beta cell replacement, new targets for complication treatments, and the first ever therapy to delay the onset of T1D. Let’s look back on the year with ten of the biggest advances from the world of T1D research:
1. Teplizumab delays T1D onset by two years
In a study by JDRF-funded TrialNet, the immunotherapy drug teplizumab was found to delay T1D diagnosis by a median of 2 years in children and adults at high risk. The milestone study was the first ever in humans to show a delay in the onset of T1D, and a huge step forward for research into preventing the condition.
2. Continued support for Australian research
Through the efforts of JDRF advocates, T1D research got a $54.5m bipartisan commitment over the next 5 years. This funding will be directed towards T1D research and also ensure that the Australian Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network (CRN) can continue to support world class Australian research to cure, prevent and treat T1D
3. Rotavirus vaccine may help prevent T1D
A Melbourne study found that the rotavirus vaccine – used to protect children from a nasty stomach virus – may also help to prevent type 1 diabetes. The study found that the rate of T1D diagnosis in children aged under 4 has declined since 2007, the same year the rotavirus vaccine was introduced as a routine infant vaccination.
4. First oral treatment for T1D approved in Europe
The type 2 diabetes drug dapagliflozin was approved for use in type 1 diabetes in the UK and Europe – the first oral medication available for T1D. Dapagliflozin is part of a class of drugs known as SGLT2 inhibitors, and is prescribed as an adjunct (add-on) to insulin therapy. In clinical trials, SGLT2 inhibitors have been shown to reduce blood glucose levels, as well as the amount of insulin a person requires.
5. ENDIA comes to life
The ENDIA study reached a huge milestone when it recruited its 1,500th and final participant. ENDIA aims to discover the environmental factors that trigger the development of T1D, by studying babies from pregnancy through to 6 months of age. The study has been running since 2013 as part of JDRF’s Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network.
6. Making islet transplantation more accessible
JDRF-funded researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney discovered a way of reducing the need for immunosuppressants following an islet transplant. The researchers, led by A/Prof Shane Grey, found that increasing the levels of the A20 protein in islet cells, before a transplant, made the cells less likely to be rejected by the body. With further research, this breakthrough could make islet transplantation available to a much broader group of people with T1D.
7. A new T1D screening program is launched
Type1Screen was launched in Australia and New Zealand for people who have relatives with T1D. The program tests for antibodies that act as markers of T1D risk, and can help detect the condition at its first stages. This early detection can lead to a lower rate of serious complications like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
8. A milestone for beta cell replacement
In the US, JDRF-supported company ViaCyte released exciting results for its beta cell replacement therapy. In a clinical trial, researchers showed that the therapy, known as PEC-Direct, can help people with T1D produce insulin again. PEC-Direct consists of pancreatic precursor cells – stem cells that are programmed to grow into islet cells – in a device that can be implanted under the skin.
9. Functional insulin-producing cells grown in lab
In a world first, JDRF-funded researchers were able to transform human stem cells into clusters of insulin-producing cells that mimic the islets of the pancreas. This new advance in making cells in the lab could make islet transplantations much more effective. When transplanted, these cell clusters begin responding to blood sugar levels within days – much more efficient than the 2-6 weeks it usually takes transplanted cells to become active.
10. New hope for treating complications
A US-based team of researchers discovered 17 new markers in the blood that are associated with a person’s risk of developing kidney complications. These markers have the potential to become targets for new treatments to treat or prevent kidney disease in T1D – and several are already being studied in clinical trials for other autoimmune conditions.
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