Breakthrough Discoveries from Organ Donor Research

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JDRF is proud of the breakthroughs that the Network of Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) has accomplished since it was established more than a decade ago. nPOD researchers have made discovery after discovery that struck down dogmas regarding our scientific understanding of how and why type 1 diabetes (T1D) develops. For example:


nPOD is the world’s largest tissue bank dedicated to the study of the human pancreas in type 1 diabetes (T1D). It collects and processes pancreatic and other tissues from organ donors who had or were at increased risk for T1D, and makes them available, without cost, to investigators around the world for research.

  • Did you ever hear that almost all beta cells are lost when you get diagnosed with T1D? That, it turns out, has very little truth. As nPOD researchers have shown, not all beta cells are lost, even 50 or more years after diagnosis. In some cases, only 50 percent are gone. This may give scientists new clues as to how to best exploit what function there is, how to prevent beta cell destruction and even how to generate new beta cells.
  • You know that beta cells are passive participants in their own immune-mediated death? Not so. It turns out that beta cells are stressed, and this stress, in turn, may lead to immune destruction. Thus, scientists may be able to develop therapies that support beta cells and protect them from stress and inflammation, which could also help quell the autoimmune response.
  • You thought that only beta cells, which make up just 1 to 2 percent of the pancreas, were lost in T1D? Well, it’s much more than that. The pancreas, it turns out, is much smaller in T1D—by about one-third to one-half—than in people who don’t have T1D. This suggests that cells in the pancreas—not just the beta cells themselves—are affected in T1D, and opens up new avenues for research on how this interaction between pancreatic cells may play a role.

These are only a few of the breakthrough discoveries made with research using human samples. By giving researchers around the globe access to human tissues, nPOD facilitates collaboration on scientific questions related to autoimmunity, the role that viruses have in triggering T1D, dysfunctional insulin production and more.

JDRF was proud to establish nPOD, and we are equally proud of renewing our commitment today. JDRF has committed $10.5 million over the next five years to expand nPOD’s mission. With The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, our partner in this endeavor, having committed an additional $4.7 million to nPOD, this brings our new commitment to more than $15 million.

For more information on nPOD, you can visit their website here. For more information on how you can be an nPOD organ donor, visit their FAQ here.

You are helping us find ways prevent, treat, and—one day—cure T1D. Find out more about JDRF here.