Type 1 Diabetes: Innovative Answers Sought for Increasing Epidemic

3 min read  |  January 19, 2018  | 

Children and adults with type 1 diabetes make up just 5 percent of all diabetic patients nationwide. Yet type 1 diabetes can exert a heavy toll from severe complications to decreasing overall life spans. Is hope possible? Researchers at the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) think so.

Type 1 Diabetes Rates Increasing

Last April, the National Institutes of Health published the newest findings showing increases in type 1 diabetes worldwide. Among youth from birth to age 19, cases of type 1 diabetes increased by 4.2 percent in Hispanic youth. The rate of newly diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes in non-Hispanic blacks jumped 2.2 percent. Data also showed a 1.2 percent annual increase in non-Hispanic whites. What could be causing the change?

“Studies are inconclusive so far,” offers Dr. Camillo Ricordi, director of the DRI, the Stacy Joy Goodman Professor of Surgery and a Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami Health System (UHealth).

“Potential causes being researched include infections, excess hygiene, changes in the gastrointestinal bacterial flora (microbiome), inflammatory diets, as well as obesity,” he shares.  “The worry over obesity is called the overload hypothesis. It means that maybe an obese child’s cells produce insulin too fast, and then fail faster than they normally would.”

Applying New Ideas To The Fight

Despite these challenges, experts believe a world without diabetes is possible. Here are a few areas of research being focused on currently:

  • Developing an “artificial pancreas”

Currently in Phase I/II clinical trials, the BioHub is a bioengineered mini organ. It could someday bring the promise of natural insulin production and normal blood sugar levels to millions suffering from type 1 diabetes. The first successful human transplant took place in 2015. DRI studies continue to push the innovative possibilities.

  • Identifying new type 1 biomarkers

A screening test for type 1 diabetes is a much hoped for advance. The DRI is exploring new biomarkers that could be risk signs of type 1 diabetes. If successful, doctors could intervene before the disease develops, progresses and damages the body.

  • The role of high dose Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids

The DRI’s recent findings showed that high doses of Omega-3 and vitamin D therapy have an anti-inflammatory effect, and also modulate the immune system. Together they might help delay or halt the progression of type 1 diabetes. The first two patient cases treated are still in remission 24 and 36 months after diabetes onset. If more research perfects the finding into a treatment approach, patients might have a safe and effective new option to help manage their illness.

The largest and most comprehensive research center dedicated to curing diabetes, the DRI is headquartered near the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Sponsored researchers come from more than 20 medical centers and are led by a Scientific Advisory Board representing the United States, Canada and the UK. Learn more about these and other DRI advances today at

Tags: biomarkers, Diabetes, Diabetes care in Miami, Diabetes Research Institute, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, type 1 diabetes

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