Millions of Americans have diabetes and 5-10 percent of those have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes, usually occurs in children or young adults. It is a lifelong autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
People with type 1 diabetes must inject themselves daily with insulin in order to stay alive. They must carefully monitor their blood sugar, and also balance their food intake and exercise. Long-term complications of type 1 diabetes include disabling or even life-threatening organ damage, including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and nerve damage.
Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) is looking for ways to prevent, reverse and intervene in the disease at all stages. People with type 1 diabetes in their families can participate in studies at BRI including:
- A test for family members to see if they have the markers that show they are at high risk for type 1 diabetes. Relatives of people with type 1 diabetes have about a 3-4 percent chance of testing positive for autoantibodies associated with diabetes, about 15 times the risk of the general population.
- If a family member’s test results show these autoantibody markers, additional tests will be offered to estimate the chance of developing the disease. If family members qualify, they may have an opportunity to enroll in a prevention trial or close monitoring.
- People who have just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can seek enrollment in trials that are aimed at helping people make their own insulin as long as possible.
- Those with long-term diabetes can donate blood samples that allow scientists to understand the disease process.
Meanwhile, scientists are looking for ways to understand the cellular and molecular workings of type 1 diabetes to find ways to shut down or reverse this disease.
Benaroya Research Institute is an international leader in type 1 diabetes research and has investigated it for more than 30 years, starting with identification of a genetic marker for the disease. Exciting achievements over this time period have led to success in finding causes of type 1 diabetes, early diagnosis and new therapies. Reflecting this impactful role in the type 1 diabetes community, the major agencies looking for an institute to lead international centers for research have chosen BRI to direct collaborative work worldwide.
In 2014, BRI became the TrialNet Hub and in June 2015, Carla Greenbaum, MD, BRI Director of the Diabetes Research Program, will become chair of the TrialNet network, supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The network includes 21 clinical centers working in cooperation with more than 200 screening and clinical research sites throughout the U.S. and seven other countries. TrialNet is dedicated to the study, prevention and early treatment of type 1 diabetes. Clinical trials have identified markers for risk and disease progression in diabetes and are testing therapies to intervene prior to onset of clinical symptoms, by blocking the immune attack on pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. More
T1D Exchange Living Biobank
BRI leads the operations center for the T1D Exchange Living Biobank. By centralizing thousands of biological samples — together with clinical, demographic and study-derived information — the T1D Exchange Biobank aims to be a world-class resource for innovative “real-time” clinical research, and a catalyst for exchange of knowledge and collaboration.
The JDRF Core for Assay Validation (CAV) is located at BRI where scientists are working to isolate type 1 diabetes biomarkers. These will be used to identify people at risk for the disease, predict progression rates and assess how well treatments are working. The CAV is a hub for numerous projects throughout the international biomarker research community.
Immune Tolerance Network
BRI leads the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), a large international clinical research consortium supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH, conducting clinical trials and studies in transplantation, allergy and autoimmunity. The Network’s aim is to reprogram the immune system so that disease-causing immune responses are stopped while maintaining the immune system’s ability to combat infection. For type 1 diabetes, the ITN conducts clinical and pre-clinical studies designed to extend people’s ability to produce insulin when they are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes by rescuing beta cells from immunological attack.
To learn more about risk testing, joining a biobank and clinical trials, please call 800-888-4187 or visit Diabetes Clinical Research.