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Our top 9 research updates from the last month

Here are our top research updates including results from drug trials, plus exciting progress in treating and preventing type 1.

Three type 1 diabetes researchers working in a busy lab.

It’s been an incredibly exciting month for type 1 diabetes research. Not least because September saw leading type 1 diabetes researchers from across the world gather at the EASD (European Association for the Study of Diabetes) conference in Sweden to present their latest research.

So, to get you up to speed, here are our top research updates including results from drug trials, plus exciting progress in treating and preventing type 1.


‘Nanobubbles’ to deliver type 1 treatments

First, let us introduce you to the fascinating science of ‘nanobubbles’, tiny bubbles made of fat and filled with liquid drugs. The bubbles can be burst by ultrasound – the tool used to look at babies during pregnancy. Researchers showed that nanobubbles injected into mice carry drugs directly to pancreatic cells being attacked by the immune system. When scientists zapped the bubbles with ultrasound, they released their drug that defended the insulin-producing beta cells. Nanobubbles may seem like science fiction, but they could help deliver all kinds of drugs to beta cells.


JDRF-funded researcher wins award

Professor Maike Sander, who is funded by JDRF, recently won the prestigious Albert Renold Prize, awarded for ‘outstanding achievement’ in pancreas research.

Professor Sander’s team grows insulin-producing beta cells from human stem cells, and she gave an update on their projects at EASD in her Award Lecture. You can read more about Professor Sander’s award-winning research in this news piece.


New drug protects insulin-producing cells

A JDRF-funded project has found that a drug called carbamazepine can protect beta cells from the immune system attack that occurs in type 1. So far, the Canadian researchers have tested carbamazepine on human and mouse cells in petri dishes.

They also injected it into mice with a high risk of type 1. Those that received the injection were less likely to develop type 1. More research like this – known as pre-clinical research – needs to happen to ensure the exciting new drug is safe and effective before they can test it in people at risk of type 1.


Existing drugs identified to treat type 1

Researchers have been screening hundreds of drugs that treat other conditions to see if they could also treat type 1. So far, the team has identified 37 approved drugs that could be repurposed to treat type 1. While they continue to identify more potential drugs, other researchers can start testing whether these 37 drugs could treat people with type 1 in clinical trials.


Promising alternatives to dapagliflozin

In February 2022, we reported that dapagliflozin had been withdrawn for people with type 1. We were concerned because the drug can make it easier for some people with type 1 to manage their blood glucose levels. So, we are delighted that a new drug called YG1699 improved glycaemic control even more than dapagliflozin in a clinical trial.

Another drug, called sotagliflozin, works in a similar way to both YG1699 and dapagliflozin. It is also getting encouraging results in clinical trials in people with type 1, improving glycaemic control and lowering their risk of heart and kidney disease. Both drugs must go through another round of trials before they can be considered for licensing.


Sex differences in type 1 management

Sex differences are present in many areas of healthcare, including type 1 diabetes. New research has found girls with type 1 have poorer glycaemic control and experience more complications than boys. This could be due to differences in puberty, fat distribution, and behaviour.

But we can do things to help girls with type 1, as lead researcher Silvia de Vries explains: “Improving disease-related coping mechanisms and quality of life during this vulnerable period may be an important strategy to improve glycaemic control and reduce the risk of complications. With the right care and support in place, there is no reason why both girls and boys with type 1 diabetes can’t live equally long and healthy lives.”


Link between COVID-19 on type 1

The first in-person EASD following the pandemic saw lots of discussion around type 1 diabetes and COVID-19. Two separate studies analysed health records from millions of young people, but the conclusions were mixed and it’s clear more research is needed. Our Director of Research Partnerships, Rachel Connor, said: “As the world becomes used to COVID being an ever-present virus, these two studies are an important step in starting to assess whether COVID could have a potential impact on auto-immune conditions such as type 1 diabetes.”


Environmental impact of type 1 tech

While a lot of research is emerging to demonstrate the huge benefits of technology, a German researcher named Professor Lutz Heinemann has addressed its environmental issues. He said: “Disposable diabetes devices […] create enormous amounts of plastic and other waste. Yet the diabetes care products themselves may represent only 10% of the total weight and volume of the waste – the rest is the packaging.”


Exercise can help manage type 1

Did you know that exercise could help you manage type 1? One JDRF-funded research group has found exercise improved hypoglyaemic unawareness, where too many hypos mean the brain no longer tells you when your blood glucose is low. After just four weeks of short high intensity exercise sessions, participants could recognise their hypo symptoms again.

If you’d like to exercise more but aren’t sure how to do so safely with type 1, check out advice from fitness guru Ben and Muhammad, a professional boxer with type 1.

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