Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin. People with this disease must inject themselves 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.

More than one million Americans have type 1 diabetes, and the worldwide incidence of the disease is growing with the greatest increase in children under five-years-old. The disease accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed diabetes in the United States.

Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, usually occurs in children or young adults and is especially prevalent among people of Northern European heritage. Additionally, family members of someone who has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are 15 times more likely to develop the disease themselves.

Research Advances 

For the past two decades, BRI has served as a worldwide leader in research to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure type 1 diabetes. BRI scientists have accounted for some of the substantial discoveries in the field, including the identification of diabetes susceptibility genes, descriptions of the properties of diabetes-associated immune cells and the development of laboratory and clinical tools to study disease progression and response to therapy. Research at BRI to fight the disease includes:

Clinical Trials 

Researchers focus on the prevention and early treatment of type 1 diabetes. BRI’s T1D clinical trials emphasize intervention studies with the goal of preserving insulin secretion in individuals newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Insulin production has been associated with reduction in severe hypoglycemia and complications, suggesting that intervention even after diagnosis is likely to have significant benefit for people with diabetes.

.type 1 diabetes insulin production

Translational Research 

Scientists study the regulation of the immune system and identify approaches that disrupt the autoimmune attack on the beta cells of the pancreas. BRI scientists are working to develop therapies that will correct the loss of immune regulation and protect the pancreas in people who develop type 1 diabetes.

Scientists use BRI's Diabetes Biorepository to better understand biomarkers associated with the progression of type 1 diabetes and to identify targets for new therapies. A biorepository consists of blood and tissue samples linked to medical and demographic information collected from people with a specific disease or condition. BRI maintains one of the world’s most robust biorepositories for the study of autoimmune disorders including type 1 diabetes. BRI also shares information with scientists internationally to accelerate discoveries.

Laboratory Research 

BRI investigates the molecular mechanisms of the type 1 diabetes autoimmune response to better understand disease progression and uncover new approaches to treatment. By gaining a greater understanding of the mechanisms and progression of the disease, BRI researchers are also developing methods to better predict a person’s disease risk and provide earlier diagnoses so that patients can begin treatments earlier, at a time when more beta cells remain and more of the insulin production function can be saved. 

BRI also leads the JDRF Biomarker Working Group Core for Assay Validation to find valid biomarkers for diagnosis and disease progression.