What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease that develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells in the pancreas (called beta cells). Beta cells normally produce insulin, which allows the body to use energy from food and helps control blood sugar levels. Without insulin, the body cannot function properly.
By the time someone shows the physical signs of type 1 diabetes, the disease has already been at work for some time. So when a person is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a large portion of their beta cells have already been destroyed. The beta cells that remain, however, can still produce some of the body’s much needed insulin.
Researchers have found that even a small amount of insulin produced by a relatively small number of beta cells can be of great benefit to people with type 1 diabetes. It may help reduce the need for injected insulin and help maintain good control of blood glucose levels. In turn, this can help prevent secondary complications of type 1 diabetes down the road.
For this reason, scientists are working hard to develop new treatments that can be given soon after diagnosis to preserve the remaining beta cells. This is the goal of the EXTEND clinical trial for newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes patients.