Among the different autoimmune disorders within the Immune Tolerance Network's (ITN’s) portfolio, several studies focus on early intervention of type 1 diabetes (T1D), also called autoimmune diabetes, juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. This chronic inflammatory disease primarily affects children and young adults and develops when the body does not produce insulin as a result of immune system attack and destruction of the cells that make insulin.
Currently T1D is treated by life-long insulin replacement, which treats the major symptom but does not cure the underlying disease.
Research Focus - Type 1 Diabetes
Therapeutic interventions using single drug approaches in the treatment of T1D have been successful in pre-clinical studies. However, none of these immune interventions have produced a durable disease remission in patients with new onset T1D despite their ability to favorably alter the balance between the effector and regulatory arms of the immune system. Although some of the trials we have conducted demonstrate that treatment can alter the progression of the disease as measured by insulin production and usage, the changes are not long-lasting. However, these studies have provided valuable mechanistic insights regarding the effects of therapy on the immune system that will help guide the design of future treatment strategies.
To build on the insights gained investigating single agent therapies, the ITN is currently developing combination approaches that target multiple arms of the immune system, which may create a suitable environment for tolerance induction. Conceiving and implementing clinical trials with combination therapies is challenging because no single immune modulator is currently approved for use in T1D. In order to address this challenge and prioritize potential combination approaches, the ITN and JDRF have established a multi-center network for the preclinical screening of combination therapies, to measure efficacy and safety and to accelerate the transition to the clinic.