Type 1 Diabetes Research


The body's immune system is supposed to "tolerate" healthy cells and distinguish "self" from "non-self." Type 1 diabetes results when the immune system confuses “self” with “non-self” and commands immune cells to attack and destroy beta cells, the cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is crucial because it helps to break down the sugar in your blood stream, converting it into the energy that your body’s muscles, brain, liver, and fat tissues need to function properly. When your immune system destroys your beta cells – rendering your body unable to produce enough insulin – sugar accumulates in your blood stream and you develop type 1 diabetes.

For decades, UCSF has been a world leader in type 1 diabetes research and clinical trials (including new onset studies for those newly diagnosed), helping to increase the field’s understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying the disease and pioneering therapies to treat it. In fact, scientists at our institution have made many of the breakthrough discoveries in diabetes, including the cloning of the human insulin gene, which made possible the unlimited supply of synthetic insulin that now is used to manage the disease in many patients. 

Our research team comprises globally renowned experts in the disciplines relevant to type 1 diabetes, including immunology and beta cell and stem cell research. We are intensely focused on converting laboratory bench research to the patient’s bedside as quickly as possible. Currently, our team is exploring novel ways to:

  • Prevent the onset of the clinical manifestation of the disease
  • Slow the progression of diabetes in the newly diagnosed period
  • Restore the body’s ability to produce insulin with pancreas and islet cell transplants and stem-cell based therapies
  • Recreate a healthy immune system that will not launch an attack against transplanted insulin-producing cells