More than one million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), and that number is on the rise. By the year 2050, five million people in the United States are expected to be facing the minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour challenges of T1D.
JDRF is working hard to change this. Finding a cure is our top priority, and a growing body of promising research is moving us closer to our vision of a world without T1D. At the same time, we believe an excellent way to help realize our vision is to support efforts to ensure people never get the disease in the first place.
“Prevention is an important focus for our research efforts at JDRF,” says Derek Rapp, JDRF President & CEO. He explains more about the value of preventing T1D in this short video. “Prevention may actually be easier to achieve than a cure,” notes Dr. Jessica Dunne, director of prevention programs for JDRF. “But we need a solid understanding of the disease to accomplish it.” JDRF works to provide this crucial knowledge through projects like Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, an international network of research centers dedicated to the study, prevention and early treatment of T1D.
By screening close relatives of people with T1D, TrialNet researchers can monitor the progression of the disease from its earliest stages to the onset of clinical symptoms. Jennifer McKnight spoke about her family’s participation in TrialNet screening in a recent article in the Houston Chronicle. After her son Dylan was diagnosed with T1D in 2010, he tested positive for several antibodies that are markers for the disease. Since then, she and her husband and their four other children have been screened yearly for the same markers. This type of screening has yielded valuable information about how T1D develops—and how we might be able to stop it.
Research has shown that T1D begins well before symptoms appear and progresses to symptomatic disease through distinct, sequential stages. Last October, JDRF, the Endocrine Society, the American Diabetes Association and other organizations published a joint scientific statement describing the earliest stages of T1D and the likelihood of progression to symptomatic disease. The staging system is discussed further in this blog post.
Armed with this knowledge, TrialNet researchers are testing different ways to interrupt disease progression and prevent the onset of symptoms. Potential prevention therapies that are currently undergoing clinical trials include dosing with the drug abatacept, immune tolerance therapy with the antibody teplizumab and oral administration of insulin. TrialNet researchers are also investigating strategies for slowing disease progression and preserving insulin production in people with recently diagnosed T1D. In fact, more than 10 potential strategies to protect beta cells—targeting either the beta cells or the immune system—are currently being tested in JDRF-supported clinical trials, though not all in the prevention setting. The outcomes of these trials will teach us more about T1D and may lead to therapies that could help to prevent it. “Ultimately, ensuring that people never develop the disease would be an amazing way to realize our vision of a world without T1D,” says Mr. Rapp.
Why It Matters
The TrialNet studies represent a global effort to stop T1D in its tracks and change the future for the millions of people who are at risk of developing T1D.