Sanford Project: Seeking cure for Type 1 diabetes

Sanford Project: Seeking cure for Type 1 diabetes

Sanford Health leaders announced in 2008 that the focus of the Sanford Project is curing type 1 diabetes via the body’s natural ability to regenerate beta cells. Identified as the attack on one of the greatest health concerns of our time, Sanford Health is dedicating health research resources to cure type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes.

“The concept for the Sanford Project is to focus on a single, pressing health care issue and establish a world-class research team to achieve significant progress within a reasonable time period,” said Sanford Health Executive Vice President Dave Link. “Through an extensive selection process which outlined specific candidate criteria, Sanford Health has chosen to attack type 1 diabetes by focusing on beta cell regeneration.”

3 million affected

Type 1 diabetes affects nearly three million Americans. With it, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. It often strikes during childhood, making patients dependent on insulin for life. Type 1 diabetes carries the constant threat of devastating complications. Regeneration research focuses on triggering the body to re-grow the insulin-producing cells that have been killed. It also seeks to prevent destruction of the newly regenerated cells by the same autoimmune reaction.

“Beta cell regeneration is one of the fastest-growing and most intriguing areas of type 1 diabetes research,” said Ben Perryman, PhD, Sanford Health Vice President of Research. “Our research team hopes to either spur the body to copy existing functioning beta cells or to coax the pancreas to create new ones. When people with the disease have regenerated beta cells, they can begin making their own insulin again.”

Sanford Health will assemble a team of top researchers and plans an investment of $30 million over five to seven years. The organization expects additional funding from foundation and industry sources as well as the National Institutes of Health.

Sanford Health will be partnering in the recruitment of researchers and review of regeneration-related research with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. JDRF is the world’s largest charitable source of funding for research leading to a cure for type 1 diabetes and its complications.

Sanford Project: Diabetes

JDRF welcomes Sanford Health as its very special partner in a shared mission. We both aim to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of new, life-changing therapies and cures for all who suffer from type 1 diabetes and its complications,” said S. Robert Levine, MD, Chairman of the JDRF Clinical Affairs Working Group. “The Sanford Project has great potential to help us keep our promise of a cure. It uniquely affords us [Sanford, JDRF, Burnham and other collaborators] the opportunity to link the critical resources required to bridge all the gaps in translating scientific advances made at the laboratory bench into new drug and device development breakthroughs, and ultimately reach the right patient, at the right time, and every time.”

The Sanford Project is one of four initiatives outlined after a transformational gift of $400 million by South Dakota businessman and philanthropist Denny Sanford. From its inception, the Sanford Project was “designed for results.” Viable candidate ideas were assessed based on criteria including: (1) a specific approach to advance new treatments for a disease, (2) a high likelihood of success within a designated time frame and (3) an appropriate and suitable scope to be carried out at Sanford Health.

To select a disease for the Sanford Project, an advisory council of leading scientists heard presentations from national experts representing each of the final four ideas. The Advisory Council deliberated and presented its guidance and recommendations. Based on these recommendations, the Sanford Health Board of Trustees made its final selection.

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What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes often appears suddenly. Symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger but loss of weight
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme weakness and lack of energy (fatigue)
  • Irritability and mood changes

In children, symptoms may seem like the flu.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes may look like other conditions or health problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is type 1 diabetes diagnosed?

There are several ways to diagnose diabetes. It is best to repeat the tests on a second day to confirm the diagnosis.

  • A1C. The hemoglobin A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past two to three months. An A1C of 6.5% or higher indicates a diabetes diagnosis.
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG). This test checks your blood glucose levels after fasting overnight. To clarify, you may have water before this test is done, but nothing else. Diabetes is diagnosed at a fasting blood glucose of 126 mg/dl or higher.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This is a two-hour test. It checks your blood glucose levels before and two hours after a sugary drink. This test tells your healthcare provider how your body processes glucose. Diabetes is diagnosed at a two-hour blood glucose of 200 mg/dl or higher.
  • Random glucose test. This blood test is done at any time of the day. Diabetes is diagnosed at blood glucose of 200 mg/dl or higher with the symptoms of hyperglycemia or hyperglycemic crisis.
  • Insulin and c-peptide levels. Levels of these will be low or normal with type 1 diabetes, but high with type 2 diabetes.
  • Antibody levels. People with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes will often have high levels of antibodies against certain proteins in the pancreas.

How is type 1 diabetes treated?

Treatment depends on your symptoms, age, general health and how severe the condition is.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need daily shots of insulin. Other parts of treatment may include:

  • Eating a diet to help manage blood sugar levels
  • Exercising to help the body use blood sugar efficiently
  • Monitoring blood sugar levels several times a day, as directed by your health care provider
  • Learning how to adjust your meals and insulin dose as needed.
  • Regular hemoglobin A1C testing twice a year. You may need to do this more often if your blood sugar level stays too high.

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