Latest Research

Researchers continue to search for the cause or causes of diabetes and for ways to prevent and cure the disorder.

Genetic Research

For example, scientists are looking for genes that may be involved in type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Some genetic markers and other indicators for type 1 diabetes have been identified, so it is now possible to check relatives of people with type 1 diabetes to see if they are at risk. Scientists are also researching ways to prevent or delay many of the complications associated with diabetes.

Drug Research

Many drugs are now available to treat type 2 diabetes. These include, for example, drugs that help the pancreas produce more insulin, make tissues more sensitive to insulin, or improve the liver's response to insulin.

By using the oral diabetes medications now available, many people with type 2 diabetes can control blood glucose levels without insulin injections. Studies are underway to determine how best to use these drugs to manage type 2 diabetes.

Clinical Trials

Much of diabetes research is conducted through clinical trials, which are research studies conducted with human volunteers to find out if a new experimental drug, therapy, medical device, lifestyle change, or test will help treat, find, or prevent a disease. New therapies are tested on people only after laboratory and animals studies have shown promising results.

Findings on Blood Glucose Control

Findings on Weight Loss and Exercise

In 1996, the NIDDK launched its Diabetes Prevention Program, or DPP. The goal of this research effort was to learn if type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed in people at high risk for the disease.

DPP researchers found that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes could lower their chances of developing the disease by half by losing a small amount of weight (achieved by a low-calorie, low-fat diet) and participating in regular physical activity.

Older adults participating in the study saw even greater benefits of diet and exercise; some people over 60 reduced their diabetes risk by even more 71 percent. The DPP also suggests that metformin can help delay the onset of diabetes. It was, however, least effective in people aged 45 and older.

A DPP follow-up study known as the DPP Outcomes Study, or DPPOS, built on those findings. Although researchers acknowledged the challenges of keeping pounds off, they found that even modest weight loss produced major long-term health rewards by lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and reducing other cardiovascular risk factors in people at high risk of developing diabetes POS participants who kept off the weight they had shed through healthy eating and by exercising regularly also lowered their heart disease risk.

Current Clinical Trials

Currently, the National Institutes of Health is conducting three clinical trials to find the best strategies to prevent and treat heart disease, the leading complication of diabetes. All three are jointly sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

For More About Clinical Trials…

The U.S. National Institutes of Health maintains an online database of clinical trials at ClinicalTrials.gov. Here you will find information about a trial's purpose, who may participate, locations, and phone numbers. Visit www.clinicaltrials.gov for more information. Type “diabetes” in the search box to see a list of the current clinical trials on diabetes.