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Home > About JDRF & Our Impact > Our research > Research projects > Protecting beta cells from the immune system
Dr Gavin Bewick from King’s College London
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys beta cells, which produce insulin.
Dr Bewick is exploring ways to improve the health, performance and number of beta cells in the body, so that people with type 1 can be less reliant on insulin pumps and injections – or even, one day, live without them completely.
Most cells have special ‘receptor’ molecules on their surface. If these molecules are ‘switched on’, they can tell the cell how to behave.
Dr Bewick’s team previously identified receptor molecules on beta cells that are important for the cells’ health and survival.
They now want to create a drug that can trigger these receptor molecules to ‘switch on’ and protect beta cells from being attacked by the immune system.
This project has three main goals:
If tests show the drugs are safe and effective, these new treatments could go forward into clinical trials.
If trials are successful, the treatments could allow people with type 1 to produce enough insulin to be less reliant on insulin injections or pumps.
And, if combined with our research into growing new beta cells, this protection could one day allow us to replace the lost cells in people with type 1 – restoring their ability to produce their own insulin, and curing type 1 diabetes.
We fund a lot of research projects that aim to protect the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This is a key part of our work to cure type 1 diabetes.
In the UK, we currently fund two projects led by Professor Colin Dayan at Cardiff University that aim to improve clinical trials of immunotherapies for type 1.
We also support TrialNet – a network of researchers looking to better understand how type 1 diabetes develops, and how it could be prevented.
This award will help to fund the next generation of immunotherapy research, enabling more efficient clinical trials, in more locations, so that promising treatments can reach people sooner.
This project aims to overcome two major roadblocks to developing and licensing immunotherapies for people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
This project is looking at a new way to turn stem cells into beta cells in the lab, to better understand what conditions make this process happen efficiently.
Dr Gavin Bewick is a researcher at King’s College London whose research focuses on the cells in the pancreas which produce and release insulin, the beta cells. He is currently developing a drug to protect these beta cells.