SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The FDA approved a new drug called Teplizumab that can delay the onset of Type 1 Diabetes, especially in children. Sanford researchers dedicated to finding a cure say this is a huge breakthrough. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of insulin-producing cells by our bodies. This new drug calms the immune system.

“This is not like taking super glue and putting it in a lock to you know it will never work again. This is like putting a little bit of gum over the surface. This is like putting a little bit of gum over the surface, so if you have an infection and the body needs to respond, the body still can in most cases, but it kind of slows down the activation that attacks the cell that makes insulin. ” said Dr. Kurt Griffin.

The new drug won’t cure diabetes but it can delay the onset, especially if the disease is identified early enough. Dr. Kurt Griffin specializes in diabetes research at Sanford and oversees clinical trials.

“This is the first time we have something to offer that’s not just replacing insulin. And one of the challenges is, you know, a lot of people will say you already have a treatment for diabetes. You have insulin. Treating with insulin, especially in a child, is no trivial procedure,” said Griffin.

Griffin says knowing you have a family history of diabetes is important for screening, but many of those who develop type one have no relatives with the disease. That’s why screening programs like Sanford’s PLEDGE Study are so important in finding people who may benefit from this new drug.

“The whole point of the program is if we limit to just the people with a family history, we are missing 90 percent or more of the kids who are going to get type one. And so for the pledge study, we are taking all comers, said Griffin.

The Pledge Study screens for Diabetes and Celiac disease. It is provided at no cost just about anywhere within the Sanford footprint.

“If you have a child that is suddenly drinking more, going to the bathroom more, wetting the bed, losing weight when they are not trying, they are hungrier than they have been, that’s something that’s worth getting checked out, and it may well be something else, but if its early onset type one if we can catch that early and start insulin early they do much better,” said Griffin.

As for Teplizumab, a single treatment has been shown to delay the onset of type one diabetes for 2 to 3 years, maybe longer in some patients. Giving researchers hope that this is the first treatment of many, eventually leading to a cure.