New York, NY – JDRF announced today the funding of an approximately $1 million collaboration with the University of Michigan’s Brehm Center and the Brehm Coalition to evaluate a new hypothesis on why beta cells lose their ability to produce insulin, resulting in a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (T1D).
In this proposed model of T1D, the loss of beta cell function may not be driven by beta cell death, as is widely believed, but rather by the regression of beta cells into a less mature state in which they are no longer able to produce insulin effectively, or at all. Proof of this model could open an entirely new therapeutic strategy, both to prevent T1D and to restore insulin production in individuals with the disease.
In previous work supported by the Brehm Center, researchers observed living but immature beta cells in animal models of diabetes, forming the basis for developing this novel hypothesis of beta cell regression. The new partnership between JDRF and Brehm aims to investigate the possibility that this proposed phenomenon plays a significant role in the loss of insulin production of beta cells in people with T1D. The new research – a key translational step in the evaluation of this hypothesis – will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team of eight leading scientists from seven universities, who make up the Brehm Coalition.
“Working with the Brehm Coalition allows us to look at this fundamental question about how type 1 diabetes develops from multiple perspectives simultaneously,” says David Wheadon, JDRF’s executive vice president of research and advocacy. “Bringing together immunology, beta cell biology, and both basic and clinical research helps to ensure that the research can move as quickly as possible, and that the discoveries made will be relevant and translatable to individuals with type 1 diabetes. If beta cells remain alive but regress in people with type 1 diabetes, there would be a paradigm shift in our understanding of how beta cells are affected by the disease process. Answering this key translational question could open up new therapeutic strategies for preserving and restoring the insulin-producing capacity of beta cells in people at all stages of the disease.”
Notes Dorene Markel, Brehm Center director and Coalition coordinator: “These scientists concluded in 2007, when they formed the Brehm Coalition, that medical research could be significantly accelerated by adopting a pattern of intimate collaboration in which they would work across traditional institutional boundaries rather than be constrained by them, sharing their data, their successes, and their failures as the research effort proceeded.
"Moreover, they would also be able to share the critical resources and infrastructure of the several universities involved, thereby taking advantage of the combined strengths of these institutions. Having JDRF as a key partner takes the collaboration to a new level, and we anticipate this joint project will not only advance science, but will serve as a demonstration of how team science can be done most effectively,” she says.
This two-year partnership, the first of its kind between JDRF and the Brehm Center and Coalition, will support one of JDRF’s priority research areas aimed at preserving and restoring beta cell function. To learn more about JDRF’s efforts toward beta cell restoration, visit www.jdrf.org/restoration.
For more information about participating in clinical research studies at the University of Michigan Health System: www.umclinicalstudies.org
About the Brehm Center and the Brehm Coalition
The Brehm Center was founded at the University of Michigan in 2004 by William K. and Delores S. Brehm as a leadership entity committed to the acceleration of the processes involved in scientific discovery and education through innovative, collaborative approaches aimed precisely at the complex challenges faced in modern medical science. The Brehm Coalition, a component of the Center, is a collaboration involving eight leading research leaders from seven major universities, representing the fields of immunology and beta cell biology – two key areas related to T1D. The Coalition brings together a diverse and synergistic set of resources and expertise in beta cell biology, immunology, animal models of T1D, and T1D clinical research.
The Brehm Coalition includes: Immunologists Mark Atkinson, University of Florida; Jeffrey Bluestone, University of California, San Francisco; Kevan Herold, Yale University; and Matthias von Herrath, La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology; and beta cell biologists Domenico Accili, Columbia University; Peter Arvan, University of Michigan; Matthias Hebrok, University of California, San Francisco; and Chris Rhodes, University of Chicago. Their laboratory teams are committed to the spirit of deep collaboration as well, with the result that well over 50 scientists and technicians are involved at any one time.
JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D. As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring $530 million in scientific research in 17 countries. For more information, please visit jdrf.org.