Type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person's pancreas makes little to no insulin. The disease develops when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, called beta cells. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in the blood. Over time, increased glucose in the blood can lead to serious problems with the heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes.
Because the cause of the disease is still unknown, after more than 100 years, we still treat the symptoms of diabetes, rather than the disease itself. Scientists believe that a person's own immune system, directed by genetic and environmental factors, plays a major role in the development of the disease. Before we can develop new treatments and a cure for diabetes, laboratory research is needed to understand the mechanics and triggers of type 1 diabetes.