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Research into complications of type 1 diabetes

We fund research into managing, delaying and preventing complications associated with type 1 diabetes.  
Content last reviewed and updated: 27.03.2024

A woman with type 1 diabetes who is walking down the street with two friends. Her friends are supporting her as she has visual difficulties - a complication of the condition. JDRF are funding research into complications and treatments for type 1 diabetes.

What are diabetes-related complications?

Living with type 1 diabetes can (but doesn’t always) result in long term medical complications such as damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels. Find out more about complications of type 1 diabetes.

We know that this damage happens because, even with the best possible glucose control achievable today, people with type 1 still experience higher glucose levels than someone without the condition. We are tackling diabetes complications at three stages: early diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Treating type 1 diabetes complications

Many of the drugs that doctors use to treat complications today were originally designed to treat other problems, rather than developed specifically for treating diabetes complications. So, we are supporting innovative work to develop new treatments and test them specifically on people with type 1 diabetes.

Diagnosing complications of type 1 diabetes early

Giving people with type 1 and their doctors early warning of any potential diabetes complications means they can begin treatment before lasting damage is done.

For around a decade we have funded Professor Helen Colhoun’s research to identify the earliest signs of type 1 diabetes complications.

In one of her JDRF-funded studies, Helen identified and evaluated biological markers which are early signs that someone is starting to develop diabetic kidney disease. Her latest JDRF-funded research investigated how artificial intelligence could be used to analyse images from eye screenings to identify early signs of damage and predict how it may progress.

Identifying who is at most risk of diabetes complications

A big part of detecting complications early is finding who is most likely to develop them. Some people are at greater risk of developing complications than others. If we can find out who is most at risk of certain complications of type 1, we can put in measures to help limit their severity.

Genetics may help predict diabetes complications

We fund Professor Sam El-Osta, who has found certain genes which can predict the development and progression of diabetic kidney disease in people with type 1. Sam said: “Our discoveries will influence how we screen people for diabetic kidney disease and improve risk identification, disease prediction and diagnosis.”

Find out more about this research into genetic tests for diabetic kidney disease.

Ethnicity a risk factor of diabetes complications

We are also helping to promote research which is revealing that certain ethnic groups may be more at risk of diabetes complications. One research group has found that people from African-Caribbean backgrounds with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk of diabetic kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy. By sharing this research, we are helping to raise awareness of the issue so that measures can be taken to address it.

Currently, knowing who is at risk of complications helps us to treat them early, but one day it could help us prevent them ever developing.

Preventing complications of type 1 diabetes

The best way to deal with diabetes complications is to prevent them from developing at all. We’re funding researchers to explore whether existing drugs can help protect against complications of type 1.

We know that having more time in range helps to prevent complications of type 1 diabetes. So, we’re also funding research to find easier ways for people with type 1 to manage their blood glucose levels more effectively. Find out more about our treatment research.

More on our research

Read more
Treating type 1 diabetes with the artificial pancreas

Treatment research

Discover research to improve and develop treatments for type 1.

Read more
A photo down a microscope of beta cell regeneration.

Cure research

Learn how researchers are trying to cure type 1.

Read more
Treatment research showing environmental triggers and islets responding to the virus

Prevention research

Learn how researchers are trying to prevent type 1.