Getting Closer to a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes

Over one year ago, Denise Faustman, MD,and her colleagues at MassachusettsGeneral Hospital (MGH) eliminated type 1diabetes in mice. The Iacocca Foundationwants this work to be translated to peoplewho have new-onset or long-term diabetes.In order to achieve this goal, the IacoccaFoundation is raising the money to move theresearch from mice to humans in the hopesof finding a cure for human type 1 diabetes.

Previous Research Efforts

Most worldwide efforts have focused onthree primary approaches to improve type 1diabetes treatment and care.

Some researchers work only on pre-diabeticanimals or humans to try to stop the diseaseprior to islet destruction. Unfortunately, thisapproach leaves the millions of people whoalready have diabetes without a new therapyfor the future.

The second approach has been thetransplantation of insulin-secreting isletcells in people with type 1 diabetes. Thedrawbacks of this approach are that isletsare limited in supply, and these transplantprocedures require immunosuppressivedrugs, which can have a variety of sideeffects and leave the body prone toinfection.

The third approach has been to workon treating the complications of type 1diabetes, which is likely to create newtreatments, not cures, for the disease.

And a Different Approach

Faustman and her colleagues have identifiedtwo compounds that were effective in killingthe incorrectly functioning white bloodcells that destroy insulin-producing cells indiabetic mice. Using these compounds, theyproduced a treatment that reversed type 1diabetes in end-stage diabetic mice. No islettransplant was necessary to treat the diseaseonce the incorrectly functioning white bloodcells were killed. The islets regenerated ontheir own.

The findings at MGH open up newpossibilities for people who already havediabetes. David M. Nathan, MD, of MGHwill lead human clinical trials based onFaustman’s studies in mice in the hopes ofeliminating diabetes and promoting isletregeneration. The researchers hope thatonce the defect in the immune systemthat causes diabetes is corrected and thedestruction of insulin-producing cells isstopped, adult stem cells that are alreadywithin the body will regenerate insulin-producingcells. The regeneration of newislets will allow the body to create insulinand stabilize blood sugar levels.

How Can I Help?

Contribute to the Join Lee Now campaign and supportthese efforts to cure type 1 diabetes in humans. Donationsmay be made over the Internet or by mail.

  • Internet: To make a donation over the Internet, please visit and click on “Donate Now.”
  • Mail: To mail your donation, please make checks payable to “Iacocca Foundation II.” All donations can be sent to the following address:

    The Iacocca Foundation II
    17 Arlington Street
    Boston, MA 02116

  • Holiday giving: Give the gift of a donation to support important diabetes research this holiday season. Donations can be made in a loved one’s name. For more information about holiday giving, go to or call Alex Charles at (212) 255-5340.
  • Volunteer: For information on becoming a city captain and helping with local efforts to raise money for these research trials, or if you have other inquiries, please call Alex Charles at (212) 255-5340 or send e-mail to

The Iacocca Foundation would like to thankMassachusetts General Hospital’s “CureDiabetes Now” fund and the Hanson’s fromPalm Dale, California, “Reach for the CureFoundation,” both of which have acceptedthe challenge grant and will be working toraise $1 million each. The cost of the firstthree years of clinical trials is estimated at $11million. Lee Iacocca has personally donated $1million to the initiative.

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