Curing Diabetes


Site - Engineering a home for islets


Sustain - Ensuring islet cell survival


Supply - Creating more islets

The DRI Strategy

How will we cure diabetes? By targeting the major research areas needed to restore natural insulin production.

The Diabetes Research Institute houses teams of scientists, engineers, and clinicians with the expertise required to tackle diabetes from many angles. This integration of medicine and technology drives the vision behind the DRI strategy, a comprehensive, three-pronged approach to cure diabetes. The strategy builds upon decades of cure-focused research and addresses the major challenges that stand in the way of a biological cure.

Strategy: 3 Research Areas to Cure Diabetes

The DRI’s three principal research avenues, collectively referred to as the “Three S’s” — Site, Sustain, Supply — are being pursued simultaneously by DRI’s multidisciplinary team of investigators, together with a global network of collaborators.

Site: Traditionally, donor islets have been transplanted into the liver but this implant site poses some limitations, leading DRI scientists to investigate other possible options. Today, researchers are working to engineer a mini-endocrine pancreas in a site within the body that can house transplanted islets and potentially other “helper” technologies that protect the cells without the need for anti-rejection drugs.

Sustain: To sustain the islets’ long-term survival, researchers are investigating several options. Some methods shield cells using protective barriers, others include adding oxygen or other beneficial agents within the transplant environment. Ultimately, sustaining the cells’ survival is about interfering with the autoimmune attack that caused the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Supply: Currently, islet cells used for transplantation come from donor pancreases, but there are not enough organs to treat the millions of children and adults living with diabetes. DRI researchers are developing ways to create a reliable and plentiful supply of insulin-producing cells, or even regenerating a patient’s own pancreatic cells.

A Comprehensive Approach to a Cure

The DRI’s strategy is based on the premise that:

• If we need to transplant insulin-producing islet cells to replace those that are destroyed by the immune system, then we must engineer a mini-pancreas in a Site within the body to house the cells.

• If we are to Sustain the survival of the transplanted islets, then they need protection from the immune system, as well as from the autoimmune attack that initially caused the onset of the disease.

• If we can halt autoimmunity through safe and effective immunotherapies, then we may Sustain natural insulin production before all the insulin-producing cells are lost.

• If we can halt autoimmunity, we may regenerate a person’s own insulin-producing cells, creating a natural Supply within the body.

• If we need more insulin-producing cells for transplant, then we must create an unlimited Supply for millions of people with diabetes who can benefit.

The DRI strategy is a comprehensive approach to curing diabetes targeting three areas of research that are simultaneously being pursued by the DRI: engineering a site within the body to house transplanted islets and beneficial components, sustaining the survival of the insulin-producing cells, and creating a supply of islets to treat the millions living with diabetes.

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