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Research to Treat and Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

Photo by Robert A. Lisak

When Hannah Rosenfield was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10, her mother Amy immediately looked beyond the standard treatment for something that might benefit her daughter long term.

Her search led her to Yale, where Kevan Herold, MD, was conducting a clinical trial for patients newly diagnosed with Type I diabetes, sometimes called juvenile-onset diabetes. The trial involved anti-CD3, an antibody Dr. Herold helped develop that quiets the T cells responsible for destroying insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It is one of several trials being conducted at Yale to develop new methods of treating and preventing Type 1 diabetes.

The study showed that the drug had a significant effect on preserving insulin production in newly diagnosed patients like Hannah. Almost four years after her diagnosis, her pancreas is still producing small amounts of insulin. Dr. Herold is now conducting a follow-up study to find out how long this effect will last.

Hannah's three siblings are currently participating in a study for relatives of those with Type I diabetes aimed at preventing and treating the disease in its early stages. The study screens individuals for antibodies to determine those who are at risk of developing diabetes.

"It's a win-win situation," said Dr. Herold. "Most people are found not to be at increased risk for diabetes, so it's helpful to parents because their concerns that their other children are at risk for developing diabetes are alleviated." In the event a relative is found to be at risk, there are prevention trials available.

One involves oral insulin, while another groundbreaking study involves anti-CD3. “If the study proves successful,” said Dr. Herold, “people will begin to think about stopping diabetes before it actually happens.”