Preventative drug providing hope for potential Type 1 diabetes patients in Colorado

Preventative drug providing hope for potential Type 1 diabetes patients in Colorado

Doctors at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes are encouraged by a relatively new treatment that is delaying the development of Type 1 diabetes in some patients. The Barbara Davis Center is a world-renowned research and treatment facility for Type 1 diabetes. It's funded in part through the Children's Diabetes Foundation.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the t-cells in the immune system kill off the cells that make insulin. Insulin is one of the tools used to breakdown food and turn it into fuel for the body. It's created in the pancreas by beta cells. Researchers do not know why the immune system turns on these important cells, but they have found a way to stall the destruction in some people who are predisposed to developing Type 1.


The treatment is a drug called Tzield. It's a 14-day infusion that research shows delays the development of Type 1 diabetes as long as 2-3  years in some patients.

"How this drug works is that it binds to the t-cell and causes it to go and get re-educated. Instead of being activated and wanting to kill the cells that make insulin, it basically becomes tired and isn't responsive to the beta cells," explained Dr. Kimber Simmons, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Barbara Davis Center within the University of Colorado School of Medicine.


By retraining the t-cells, the body is able to produce insulin longer prolonging the need for insulin injections. Tzield is not a cure, but it opens the door for more research and other therapies that might lead to a cure.

"Now that we actually have something that's not just in research, but that we can put in patient's hands, that's amazing," Simmons told CBS News Colorado.

Tzield is being covered by insurance for patients who are eligible. Patients are eligible if they are 8-years or older, have islet autoantibodies, and are starting to have abnormal blood sugars.   In order to determine eligibility, a patient needs to be tested for the markers for Type 1 through a blood test. Free testing can be done at or

"I hope that I can buy myself as much time as possible," said Caroline Harrison, who got the infusion. "I will take a week without Type 1 if that's all this buys me, I'd do it again."


Harrison has a family history of Type 1 diabetes and has been testing for the markers for years. Five years ago, she got the call that she was in stage 1, which means the islet autoantibodies were present in her blood. She regularly checked her blood sugar levels to see if she was advancing to stage 2 of the development of the disease. That happened in January, 2024.

"Being stage 2 felt like a relief compared to stage1 because I could do something, where stage 1 you're still just waiting," she told CBS News Colorado.

Harrison described the 14-day infusion as making her feel like she had a mild flu but was manageable.

"I know that this is not curative; but I also kind of hope that in the time that I can buy maybe new drugs will come out; and, I can kind of keep taking new things as they come that just might stall the process," Harrison explained.

The Children's Diabetes Foundation's EPIC Diabetes Conference is a great place to learn about the newest research and treatments for Type 1 diabetes. That conference is Saturday, June 1st from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Education 2 South on the Anschutz Medical Campus. 

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