Testing a New Approach to Curing Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an incurable autoimmune disease in which a patient’s immune cells destroy their body’s own insulin-producing pancreatic cells, resulting in high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). My team discovered that hyperglycemia increases the level of a sugar attached to a particular protein involved in controlling immune cell function. When our protein of interest is aberrantly modified in hyperglycemia, healthy levels of selected genes are pushed out of balance and immune cells become increasingly destructive. We believe that blocking the function of only the modified form of our protein of interest will restore the balance of these genes disrupted by hyperglycemia and re-establish proper immune cell function. Hence, we aim to develop a drug that specifically binds only to the sugar-modified protein to block its function. This research will study how this approach works to restore immune cell functions in diabetic mouse models and in patient cells.
For decades, insulin injections were the standard of care for Type 1 diabetes patients. The PhRMA Foundation predoctoral fellowship has given me the opportunity to research a possible cure for type 1 diabetes. Thanks to the PhRMA Foundation, I am given tools to try to change the lives of millions of people now suffering.