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Type 1 Diabetes - TrialNet e-news - April 2010

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TrialNet pays tribute to Dr. George Eisenbarth

By Jay Skyler, M.D.
Chairman, Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet

Dr. George Eisenbarth, a great American scientist who advanced type 1 diabetes on a worldwide level

In observance of World Diabetes Day (November 14) and American Diabetes Month (November), TrialNet pays tribute to Dr. George Eisenbarth, a great American scientist who advanced type 1 diabetes research on a worldwide level. Passing away last November after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer, Dr. Eisenbarth's studies helped define the progressive autoimmune nature of the disease, leading to new approaches in treatment and prevention.

Involved in immunotherapy trials for three decades, Dr. Eisenbarth was among the pioneers who attempted immunotherapy approaches in patients with recent-onset type 1 diabetes. He was also one of the first to attempt immune intervention in those at high risk. Throughout his career he developed autoantibody assays and predictive models, including metabolic testing and genetics, toward identifying individuals at risk.

His focus on insulin as a critical autoantigen led to multiple prevention trials, including the Diabetes Prevention Trial-Type 1 (DPT-1), studying both parenteral and oral insulin. In the DPT-1 Oral Insulin Trial, a cohort with higher levels of insulin autoantibodies was identified that appeared to delay disease progression. Today, TrialNet is conducting a new trial to verify or refute this observation.

Dr. Eisenbarth also identified and tested small molecules in mice that block or modulate presentation of a key insulin peptide that in turn prevent activation of insulin-specific T-lymphocytes. It's believed his greatest contribution is yet to come, when in the near future, we see this work translate into clinical trials.

Dr. Eisenbarth was an extraordinary mentor who demonstrated an incredible willingness to collaborate, share data, and offer help to anyone in the field. He always had an air of excitement, like a young boy, thrilled to see the field advance. It was his hope that others would carry on to achieve what he did not live to see—namely, the prevention and reversal of type 1 diabetes. Fortunately, Dr. Eisenbarth's legacy includes a large number of former Fellows and trainees that he inspired to work in the field of type 1 diabetes immunopathogenesis and immunotherapy.  They will most certainly help to achieve his lifetime goals.

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