Getting Closer to a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes

The content for this column is furnished by the Iacocca Foundation

Dec 1, 2004

Over one year ago, Denise Faustman, MD, and her colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) eliminated type 1 diabetes in mice. The Iacocca Foundation wants this work to be translated to people who have new-onset or long-term diabetes. In order to achieve this goal, the Iacocca Foundation is raising the money to move the research from mice to humans in the hopes of finding a cure for human type 1 diabetes.

Previous Research Efforts

Most worldwide efforts have focused on three primary approaches to improve type 1 diabetes treatment and care.

Some researchers work only on pre-diabetic animals or humans to try to stop the disease prior to islet destruction. Unfortunately, this approach leaves the millions of people who already have diabetes without a new therapy for the future.

The second approach has been the transplantation of insulin-secreting islet cells in people with type 1 diabetes. The drawbacks of this approach are that islets are limited in supply, and these transplant procedures require immunosuppressive drugs, which can have a variety of side effects and leave the body prone to infection.

The third approach has been to work on treating the complications of type 1 diabetes, which is likely to create new treatments, not cures, for the disease.

And a Different Approach

Faustman and her colleagues have identified two compounds that were effective in killing the incorrectly functioning white blood cells that destroy insulin-producing cells in diabetic mice. Using these compounds, they produced a treatment that reversed type 1 diabetes in end-stage diabetic mice. No islet transplant was necessary to treat the disease once the incorrectly functioning white blood cells were killed. The islets regenerated on their own.

The findings at MGH open up new possibilities for people who already have diabetes. David M. Nathan, MD, of MGH will lead human clinical trials based on Faustman’s studies in mice in the hopes of eliminating diabetes and promoting islet regeneration. The researchers hope that once the defect in the immune system that causes diabetes is corrected and the destruction of insulin-producing cells is stopped, adult stem cells that are already within the body will regenerate insulin-producing cells. The regeneration of new islets will allow the body to create insulin and stabilize blood sugar levels.

How Can I Help?

Contribute to the Join Lee Now campaign and support these efforts to cure type 1 diabetes in humans. Donations may be made over the Internet or by mail.

  • Internet: To make a donation over the Internet, please visit and click on “Donate Now.”
  • Mail: To mail your donation, please make checks payable to “Iacocca Foundation II.” All donations can be sent to the following address:

    The Iacocca Foundation II
    17 Arlington Street
    Boston, MA 02116
  • Holiday giving: Give the gift of a donation to support important diabetes research this holiday season. Donations can be made in a loved one’s name. For more information about holiday giving, go to or call Alex Charles at (212) 255-5340.
  • Volunteer: For information on becoming a city captain and helping with local efforts to raise money for these research trials, or if you have other inquiries, please call Alex Charles at (212) 255-5340 or send e-mail to

The Iacocca Foundation would like to thank Massachusetts General Hospital’s “Cure Diabetes Now” fund and the Hanson’s from Palm Dale, California, “Reach for the Cure Foundation,” both of which have accepted the challenge grant and will be working to raise $1 million each. The cost of the first three years of clinical trials is estimated at $11 million. Lee Iacocca has personally donated $1 million to the initiative. Click Here To View Or Post Comments

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Dec 1, 2004

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