Project information

Genes, Autoimmunity & Type 1–A Prevention Project

Our immune systems should destroy foreign substances, such as bacteria, that may harm us. Type 1 is caused when this goes wrong and the body attacks its own beta cells, which produce insulin instead. We don’t understand what triggers this but our scientists are working hard to find out.

July 2011 - June 2012

Charity information


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  • Need


    We know there are ten different risk genes that are connected with the development of type 1 diabetes. If a person has one or more of these genes present in their bodies they are at greater risk of developing the disease than someone without them. This project will be the first of its kind to investigate on such a vast scale the implications of having these risk genes on the development of type 1 diabetes.


    The research team are collecting blood samples to work with, from people with type 1, their close relatives and ‘controls’ from the general population. The blood samples provide genetic and immunological information which the team can assess for the known risk genes. They will then investigate why the immune system in people with these genes recognise insulin as a foreign body and attack it, thus causing type 1.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Identify high and low degree risk genes for developing type 1 diabetes.


    » Test blood samples taken from over 5,000 participants for risk genes that could lead to the development of type 1

    Success will be an enhanced understanding of the genes that play a part in the development of type 1.

    Aim 2

    To understand why the immune systems of people with these genes recognise insulin as a foreign body


    » Examine 2 genes in particular that are believed to have a direct influence on the production of cells that attack insulin producing cells.

    Success will be a greater knowledge of the early stages of the disease, this could help researchers develop treatments which would intervene and stop the disease in its tracks.

    Aim 3

    Define potential biological ‘markers’ for predicting risk of type 1


    » Investigate how the immune system ‘make-up’ differs between people affected by type 1 and their unaffected brothers and sisters

    Success will mean researchers using biological 'makers' to screen relatives of those with type 1 to identify if they are at risk of developing the disease.

    Aim 4

    Enhance our understanding of how features of the genome and the immune system interact in type 1.


    » Analyse cells from people with high risk genes, to look at how they recognise healthy cells and how they become activated to attack them.

    Success will be new information gathered on how the make up of our genes works with the immune system.

  • Impact


    Other studies that have looked at the genetic causes of type 1 have never been done on this sort of scale; hence a true picture of the disease’s development could not be fully put together, or understood. Whilst ultimately we hope the autoimmune attack can be prevented before it starts, if researchers can identify how insulin producing cells are destroyed, the process can potentially be targeted and prevented, with drug therapy.


    A risk associated with any medical research project is the loss of key staff. If this occurred there would be a short delay in the running of the project whilst the team recruited new members of research staff to the project. It is also important to retain the participants taking part in the study. Research nurses assisting in the project are key to this being achieved, they regularly liaise with participants answering their questions and guiding them through the trials.


    Researchers are required to produce annual progress and final research reports to JDRF. The reports are translated by our research communication team who make them accessible to a lay audience, before they are disseminated to our donors.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £25,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £20,000 Sample collection Cost of nursing staff who will take blood samples from those with type 1 and their families.
      £5,000 Transport costs Cost of transporting samples across the UK for analysis.
  • Background


    The D-GAP project is being carried out in a number of highly regarded institutions across Britain. They include King’s College, London; the University of Cambridge and the University of Bristol.


    Around 350,000 people in the UK have type 1 diabetes, over 25,000 of who are under 16 years of age. The potential to develop new therapies from this research would have a life changing impact on those who live with type 1. However, even more exciting is the prospect that this research, which will lead to a better understanding of the very fundamentals of type 1, could ultimately be the key to finding the cure for the disease.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    JDRF is the world's leading charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research. We are committed to funding the research that will lead us to the cure for type 1. This project is the first of its kind to investigate, on such a huge scale, the implications of having certain genes in the body. It is an innovative and exciting initiative which will ultimately take us one step closer to finding the cure for the disease.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Professor Mark Peakman

    The principal investigator of this project is Mark Peakman who is Professor of Clinical Immunology at King's College London, School of Medicine

    Professor John Todd, Professor David Dunger & Professor Linda Wicker

    Professor Peakman is collaborating with the above researchers all of whom are based at Cambridge University.

    Professor Polly Bingley

    Finally, Polly Bingley Professor of Diabetes, will be collaborating on the project at Bristol University, School of Clinical Sciences.

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