JDRF Shines Light on Type 1 Diabetes During Autoimmune Awareness Month



More than 1.4 million Americans live with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease. Screening for type 1 diabetes can reduce the risk of life-threatening complications at diagnosis.

New York, March 26, 2024 — In recognition of Autoimmune Awareness Month, JDRF, the leading global type 1 diabetes (T1D) research and advocacy organization, recognizes all those who live with T1D, an autoimmune condition that causes the pancreas to make very little insulin or none at all. T1D is one of nearly 100 autoimmune diseases that occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks another part of the body. While there are currently no cures for autoimmune diseases, screening options may be available, which can reduce the risk of life-threatening complications at diagnosis and provide people time to develop a plan in partnership with their healthcare team. JDRF continues advancing breakthroughs to find cures for T1D, including research that has the potential to impact other autoimmune diseases.

Research shows about 25% of people with one autoimmune disease may develop a second, and around 50 million Americans have one or more autoimmune diseases. This includes one-fifth of the T1D community. Chelsea Morra was diagnosed with T1D at the age of seven and lived with it for 14 years before she was diagnosed with a second autoimmune condition, celiac disease, at age 21. She was then diagnosed with vitiligo in 2021. Chelsea has a family history of T1D and celiac disease, and she knew her T1D put her at a higher risk of developing a second autoimmune disease. Unfortunately, this didn’t diminish the complexity that an additional diagnosis added to her day-to-day T1D management.

“When I learned I had celiac disease, the stress of a new diagnosis impacted my type 1 diabetes and all aspects of my life,” said Chelsea Morra. “I had to relearn my T1D in a sense. Identifying what new foods I could eat and understanding how they impacted my blood sugars was challenging,” she said. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to manage my autoimmune diseases and have remained healthy, but knowing your risk for developing an autoimmune disease and accessing any available screening can be helpful for your overall health.”

In recent years, JDRF-funded research has discovered that it’s possible to detect T1D before a clinical diagnosis, even before symptoms start, by identifying the presence of specific autoantibodies through a simple blood test. Screening for T1D and follow-up monitoring can have significant benefits, particularly if results indicate that a person is likely to develop T1D in their lifetime.

“Screening for T1D before symptoms occur presents the opportunity to change the course of the disease and improve the health of those who may develop it,” said Anastasia Albanese-O’Neill, JDRF Associate Vice President of Community Screening and Clinical Trial Education. “The ability to identify T1D early, before insulin is required, is a huge breakthrough that can help people avoid serious complications at diagnosis, give them time to prepare, consider research, and potentially access therapies that could delay the clinical diagnosis. This is why it’s so important that people understand the importance of screening and monitoring for T1D and other autoimmune conditions.”

In the fall of 2022, the FDA approved the first disease-modifying therapy that can delay clinical T1D in individuals in early stages, teplizumab. JDRF supported the development of teplizumab for over 30 years.

JDRF encourages those with T1D and other autoimmune diseases to share their stories and continue to build awareness of their conditions and opportunities for screening. For more information about T1D screening and monitoring, visit jdrf.org and jdrf.org/T1Detect.

About JDRF
JDRF’s mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent, and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested more than $2.5 billion in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally and globally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a global stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers throughout the United States and our five international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement, and our vision of a world without T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.org or follow us on Twitter (@JDRF), Facebook (@myjdrf), and Instagram (@jdrfhq).

About Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)
T1D is an autoimmune condition that causes the pancreas to make very little insulin or none at all. This leads to dependence on insulin therapy and the risk of short or long-term complications, which can include highs and lows in blood sugar; damage to the kidneys, eyes, nerves, and heart; and even death if left untreated. Globally, it impacts nearly 9 million people. Many believe T1D is only diagnosed in childhood and adolescence, but diagnosis in adulthood is common and accounts for nearly 50% of all T1D diagnoses. The onset of T1D has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. There is currently no cure for T1D.


Casey Fielder