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Oxford researchers are tackling type 1 diabetes from many angles to understand why pancreatic cells are destroyed in the disease and aim to apply this to preventing as well as treating the disease.

Close up of women's hands checking blood sugar level on a portal glucose meter

Type 1 diabetes develops when the pancreas cannot make enough insulin, leading to elevated levels of glucose in the blood. Oxford researchers have identified genes that are associated with increased (or decreased) risk of the disease, including those that contribute to loss of immune tolerance in beta cells, culminating in their destruction. They are developing immune therapies that target these genes, for example in the IL2 pathway, to treat patients with the disease. Other groups are using knowledge about human type 1 diabetes susceptibility genes to explore mouse models of the disease, including investigating how changes in the gut microbiome might be associated with the disease.

Researchers at Oxford are leading a pioneering trial to prevent high-risk babies from developing type 1 diabetes. Begun in 2018, the trial is assessing whether the immune system of infants can be trained by spoon-feeding them powdered insulin. 

Oxford has one of the most active beta-cell replacement programmes in the world. OXCIT, the Oxford Consortium for Islet Transplantation, combines a human islet isolation facility and clinical transplant programme with an innovative research programme. 

The Diabetes and Metabolism theme within the Oxford NIHR Biomedical Research Centre supports many aspects of translational research in type 1 diabetes.

Translational research focused on other forms of diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that affects pregnant women in which blood sugar levels become elevated during pregnancy and usually return to normal after birth. A multidisciplinary team at Oxford has developed a digital blood glucose management system to facilitate remote monitoring of women with the condition. Mobile phone-based 'GDm-Health' is amongst the first app to be considered as a case study for developing healthcare technology innovation within the NHS and was launched commercially in October 2018.