T1D Science, Explained: Immunotherapies


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T1D Science, Explained: Immunotherapies

Our immune system is crucial to our survival—around the clock, it guards against infections and other threats to our health. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that progresses when this immune response goes awry and the body attacks its own insulin-producing beta cells as if they were invaders.

What if we could turn off the immune system’s attack? It would mean protecting beta cells so that they remain healthy and continue producing insulin. This is the future that JDRF is hoping to unlock with our groundbreaking JDRF Immunotherapies Program. Our scientists are working to develop therapies that will slow, and someday stop, the progression of T1D’s autoimmune reaction.

With over 80 active grants, a $145 million investment and dozens of JDRF-funded clinical trials, we’ve already driven significant progress in this promising field. Here are just a few recent developments in immunotherapy research:


Immunotherapy Delays T1D’s Development

A recently published JDRF-funded study presented an exciting finding: For the first time ever, an immunotherapy treatment was able to significantly delay—for over two years—the onset of T1D in participants with a high risk of developing the disease! The drug, called teplizumab, targets CD3, a blood marker that activates the immune system’s T cells, to suppress the autoimmune response. With these results, and the drug continuing to a phase 3 clinical trial, we’re moving even closer to a world without T1D.


New Potential in an Existing Drug

Building on the findings of JDRF-funded studies, researchers are investigating the potential of a drug commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure to delay the progression of new-onset T1D in people with a genetic risk factor called HLA-DQ8. Though a clinical trial is still needed to validate the results and understand how the drug impacts the disease, this immunotherapy may improve outcomes for those predisposed to develop T1D.


Combination Immunotherapy

The University of Florida is testing two Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved immunotherapy drugs for T1D treatments. When given both anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) and granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (GCSF), participants with recent-onset T1D were able to preserve the function of their remaining beta cells. The ongoing trial investigates whether earlier intervention brings about even stronger benefits.

Immunotherapy is one of the most promising avenues of T1D research, as it helps us not only fight the disease but also better understand its origin. JDRF-supported research continues to make significant gains in the development of safe, effective immunotherapy treatments to delay the progress of T1D—and ultimately, play a part in finding cures.

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