In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This means you can’t produce your own insulin and need to replace it with insulin injections or a pump.
But insulin doesn't treat the root cause of type 1 diabetes – the immune system’s attack. If we’re to cure or prevent the condition, we need to tackle the root of the problem.
New treatments called immunotherapies are designed to do this. They reprogramme the immune system to stop it attacking and destroying insulin-making beta cells. They’re being tested in clinical trials right now with people who’ve just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and in people who don’t yet have the condition but have a high risk of developing it in the future.
Scientists have shown immunotherapies can help to slow down the attack, delaying the condition in people who are at high risk or protecting surviving beta cells in people who are newly diagnosed.
Current immunotherapies can’t keep the immune system’s attack at bay forever. And how well they work seems to vary a lot between different people.
The SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge will task scientists to build on the impressive progress we’ve seen in this area to unlock the potential of immunotherapies to prevent and form part of a cure for type 1 diabetes.
We need to delve deeper than ever before into the root cause of type 1 diabetes and uncover all the different ways the immune system can attack beta cells.
“The era of being able to halt the immune attack behind type 1 diabetes is in reach, but for everyone affected by type 1 to benefit we need an armoury of new treatments that can tackle the immune system’s many lines of attack.
“With JDRF and the landmark investment from the Steve Morgan Foundation we can lead the way in igniting research to develop more personalised and effective treatments that we hope will mean future generations will never develop type 1, and overcome a huge hurdle on the road to a cure.”
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK