Understanding autoimmunity

What happens when the body attacks itself

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease, meaning a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks itself.

Balance is key to the immune system. 

In a healthy person, the immune system is active enough to identify and eliminate threats, but not so active that the immune system begins to recognize and attack its own cells. 

This balance is lost in people with T1D, and the immune cells attack the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.  

T1D is just one of many autoimmune disorders. Others include celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.

What causes T1D

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of T1D—including family history and environmental factors. 

T1D staging

Thanks to decades of work by Breakthrough T1D, we know how T1D develops, step by step. 

Our research strategy

Breakthrough T1D is focused on the entire T1D continuum to help everyone affected by T1D. This includes those who are at risk of developing it, to those who have had it for decades.

Develop drugs that change the course of T1D for everyone affected by it—and those yet to be. That means slowing or halting the progression of the disease, preventing it from ever occurring, and reversing it entirely.

Replace destroyed beta cells with external cells that make insulin and protect the replacement cells so they function for a very long time.

Advance the development of drugs, devices, behavioral health interventions, and their combinations, to improve outcomes and quality of life for people with T1D.

Learn more T1D basics

Tests and other factors that lead to a T1D diagnosis

Statistics on T1D around the globe

Get the facts about living with T1D