The president of Delaware's diabetes research group discusses new research into the disease

People with Type 1 diabetes have seen their lives improved by science as efforts continue to treat the disease.

While Type 2 diabetes can be managed through lifestyle changes, Type 1 is a chronic, life-threatening condition.

Much of the research for a cure has been done under the auspices of JDRF, said Paul Loomis, Delaware chapter board of directors president.

Founded in 1970 as the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the group soon decided to add the word “research” to its name as it focused on the study of diabetes and raising money to finance that research. Today it is known by its initials.

In the past 48 years, the group has raised more than $2 billion. Much of that work has gone into finding new ways to deliver insulin and to develop better types of the hormone.

“Until the discovery of insulin in 1921, a diagnosis of diabetes was a death sentence,” Loomis said. He has had several roles in the nonprofit JDRF since his son was diagnosed in 2003.

“Then, the only option was to inject a low dose of insulin once in the morning to last 24 hours, and then to give him fast-acting insulin every time he put something in his mouth that contained carbohydrates,” Loomis said.

JDRF research has led to the development of monitors and insulin pumps; therapy to prevent or treat complications from diabetes; therapy to prevent the development of Type 1 diabetes, and efforts to restore the body’s ability to produce insulin. The latter would represent a biological cure for Type 1 diabetes.

There are ongoing clinical tests on a drug, sotagliflozin, which could help avoid high sugar levels by excreting glucose through the kidneys.

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new device that delivers a constant stream of insulin and continually monitors glucose levels. If glucose levels drop too much, the device stops the insulin delivery.

Research also is ongoing into replacing destroyed insulin-producing pancreatic cells, Loomis said. First, a way must be found to suppress the body from rejecting the replacements. Unfortunately, progress is hampered by a lack of donors, he said.