Type 1 Diabetes: Closing in on a Cure

Living with diabetes is a burden at any age, but it can make a child feel like an outsider. At class parties, they eat a low-sugar snack while the other students eat cupcakes. Daily trips to the nurse for glucose monitoring and insulin administration broadcast that they are different, something no child wants to be. In addition to their feelings of belonging, Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) can result in serious hospitalizations, acute low blood sugar, and even death. Mismanaged childhood diabetes can also lead to debilitating effects in adulthood like blindness or loss of limbs.

A UPMC Children’s physician-researcher and his team are closer than ever to discovering a new treatment for over 200,000 children, adolescents, and adults living with diabetes in the United States. Surgeon-scientist George K. Gittes, MD, is using gene therapy technology to trigger certain cells in the pancreas to begin producing insulin. The gene therapy was incredibly successful in mouse models, with a single treatment stabilizing blood glucose levels for four months or more without any additional therapy or immunosuppression.

This breakthrough has propelled Dr. Gittes and his team into further testing and refining of the treatment, with the goal to soon move to human clinical trials.

Dr. Gittes’ groundbreaking work has not only received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but also vital, generous contributions from individual donors. This support equips him with the tools, technologies, and talented team members he needs to succeed so that one day every kid can enjoy the pleasures of childhood, look forward to a healthy future, and feel that they belong.