T1D Science, Explained: What is nPOD?
We all want a world without type 1 diabetes (T1D). The fact is, to find life-changing results for ourselves and people all over the world living with T1D, we need to study the human pancreas.
That is why JDRF organized and dedicated significant funding to the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD). nPOD is both a collaborative network of scientists and the world’s largest bank of pancreatic tissue and data about the pancreas. By giving researchers around the globe access to these resources, nPOD facilitates collaboration on the scientific questions that will one day lead to a cure for T1D.
In honor of National Donate Life Month, we’re excited to share with you the science that your support is making possible, and what organ donation means for T1D and our goal of a world without it.
Dysfunctional insulin production
People are often told at diagnosis that almost all of their beta cells have been destroyed. But nPOD scientists have found that, sometimes, as many as 50 percent of beta cells remain—they just aren’t functioning properly. And that’s good news! Through targeted therapies at diagnosis, these remaining beta cells could possibly be restored and able to produce insulin.
Children diagnosed with T1D under age seven often develop a more aggressive form of diabetes, losing significantly more of their beta cells, than those diagnosed as teenagers. These findings could open doors to new and different treatments depending on the age of diagnosis.
Surprisingly, we recently came to understand that the pancreas is one-third to one-half smaller in people with established T1D than in similar people without T1D. This is a mystery, because beta cells comprise only 1 to 2 percent of the pancreas—which means other parts of the organ must be impacted by T1D. nPOD’s exploration of this may hold the key to the cause of T1D, ways to predict individuals at higher risk of getting T1D and, ultimately, a cure.
Stressed beta cells
It turns out beta cells are not passive participants in their own immune-mediated death. nPOD has found that they are stressed, making them less resistant to inflammation. Therapies that support beta cells and protect them from stress could make a huge difference in the treatment of T1D.
We hope you will agree that there is incredible potential in these studies of the human pancreas—and they are just a small handful of more than 250 ongoing studies through nPOD. One simple way to help keep this important research going? If you have T1D or are at an increased risk of developing it, you can sign up to show your interest in becoming an nPOD organ donor.