T1D Rise Among Youth Highlights the Importance of Renewed Research Funding

Tara Wilcox-Ghanoonparvar 27 Jul 2012

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released results from their latest SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study. The data revealed a 23 percent growth in type 1 diabetes (T1D) prevalence, between 2001 and 2009, in Americans under age 20. At this rate, the prevalence of T1D would double for every future generation, calling attention to the urgent need to reverse this alarming trend.

In order to do this, we need research. We must understand what factors cause T1D and why, who is at risk for the disease and why, and then discover methods for preventing the progression of the disease. The SEARCH results are the latest example of why organizations like JDRF are essential, and of why federal support of research through the Special Diabetes Program (SDP) must continue to be renewed. The SDP funds roughly one-third of all diabetes research at the NIH. Its impending expiration, if not renewed by Congress, would hinder the continuation of key research initiatives that are working toward slowing down and halting T1D.

In only a decade, SDP research has expanded the catalog of genes now believed to influence a person’s risk of developing T1D from three genes to nearly 50 genes or genetic regions today. We are also positioned to learn a great deal about the environmental factors that may trigger T1D. The SDP funds The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY), a multi-national consortium examining the environmental exposures of children who are at an increased genetic risk for the disease. A greater understanding of who is at risk for T1D and why will help researchers to develop possible approaches to prevention of T1D.

TrialNet, funded in part by the SDP and by JDRF, is screening relatives of individuals with T1D for the presence of beta cell-specific autoantibodies, to determine an individual’s risk of developing the disease. Individuals at high risk are being offered the opportunity to enroll in TrialNet T1D prevention trials.

With the help of TEDDY, TrialNet, and many other studies on why and how T1D progresses, scientists are now working toward possible interventions, such as T1D vaccines. Researchers are exploring therapeutic avenues that have successfully preserved residual beta cell function in recent onset T1D, in order to find ways to protect beta cells in those at risk before disease begins.

JDRF and others are committed to putting an end to T1D, and the latest SEARCH data underscores that commitment. In addition to research, we must continue to advocate for the protection of federal support for SDP. If you would like to get involved in helping to ensure continued diabetes research funding, sign up here to be a JDRF advocate or visit advocacy.jdrf.org for more information.

Lets turn type one into type none