Every month, we will be rounding up the most exciting T1D research stories from around the world – the new advances in treatment, devices and knowledge that could make a big impact on your life.
Here’s what you need to know in T1D research this month:
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.
Can rotavirus switch on T1D?
Vaccinating against rotavirus might also prevent some children from developing T1D, according to Prof Leonard Harrison from the University of Melbourne. Prof Harrison found that the incidence of T1D in Australian children has decreased by 15% since the introduction of a rotavirus vaccine in 2007. JDRF has previously funded research by Prof Harrison’s team suggesting that rotavirus – a major cause of severe diarrhoea in children – may play a role in the development of T1D.
One step closer to an insulin pill
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made early progress on an insulin pill – a capsule that, when swallowed, delivers insulin into the bloodstream. When the capsule starts to break down, it reveals microscopic needles that inject insulin into the walls of the small intestine. This could make taking insulin a lot more convenient – and with no pain receptors in the intestines, the process is likely to be pain-free.
Looking at genes to predict T1D risk
At the University of Virginia, researchers are developing a genetic test that could identify children at high risk of developing T1D. The test looks at many genetic variations, across many different genes, to give an overall picture of a person’s genetic risk of T1D. Those found to be at high risk can be monitored from an early stage, which could prevent them from developing serious complications like diabetic ketoacidosis.
Detecting complications with “tear testing”
Researchers at UNSW Sydney have found that early signs of peripheral neuropathy can be detected in a person’s tears. Peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves of the hands and feet, and is a common complication of T1D. Early detection is important, but the first signs of nerve damage are notoriously difficult to pick up. Tear testing has the potential to be a simple, non-invasive way of finding those at risk of developing the complication.
Can antiviral medications delay T1D?
A new clinical trial in Norway aims to test whether two common antiviral medications can prevent or delay beta cell destruction in people newly diagnosed with T1D. If successful, this trial will build on previous evidence that viral infections play a role in “switching on” T1D – and show that targeting viruses could be a new way of preventing the condition.
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If you’d like to see clinical trials that are currently recruiting all around Australia, you can take a look at our Trial Finder here.