Type I diabetes (T1D) also known as juvenile diabetes, although many adults have T1D, is an autoimmune disease primarily mediated by T-cells that causes the destruction of pancreatic β-cells which produce the body’s insulin hormone. The Network for Pancreatic Organ donors with Diabetes (nPOD) is a global, collaborative investigation that includes the world’s largest pancreatic tissue biobank, whose mission is to further scientific understanding of the factors that lead to T1D. It was founded by the charity known as JDRF.
Led by renowned T1D researcher Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., nPOD has supported more than 300 investigators in over 20 countries and processed 50,000 tissue samples for analysis. Dr. Atkinson is a Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Pediatrics at the University of Florida, Director of the University of Florida Diabetes Institute, and Chairman of the JDRF Research Advisory Committee. The scientific direction of nPOD is overseen by an outside Scientific Advisory Board, comprised of prominent diabetes investigators across the country.
On nPOD’s tenth anniversary JDRF has committed a further $10.5 million over the next five years to expand research on how T1D progresses in humans. The Helmsley Charitable Trust has separately committed $4.7 million in continued support. The nPOD biobank has collected and processed organ donations including pancreas and other tissues from donors who were at risk of or had T1D. Nearly 250 studies using human samples are currently being performed by nPOD scientists. It facilitates collaboration on scientific questions related to autoimmunity, the role that viruses have in triggering T1D, dysfunctional insulin production, T1D diagnosis, and more. In order to foster scientific partnership, nPOD makes samples available, without cost, to investigators around the world for research.
“The human pancreas is difficult to study while inside the body, but through the generosity of individuals who donate their pancreas and other organs, researchers are making advances toward a world without type 1 diabetes,” explains Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., JDRF Chief Mission Officer. “We believe nPOD has the potential to do for T1D what tissue banks did to accelerate the development of cancer therapies.”
“Thanks to nPOD, in the past decade, collaborative researchers have reversed several long-held dogmas about type 1 diabetes,” said Gina Agiostratidou, Ph.D., Helmsley’s Type 1 Diabetes Program Director. “This research may hold the key to what causes T1D, ways to predict those at higher risk of developing T1D, and ultimately, how to treat it.”