50 year Medalist Study
For the first time, a large number of individuals who have survived fifty or more years with type 1 diabetes are being studied to determine what factors may allow them to be resistant to the ravaging effects of diabetes.
What is the Medalist Program?
The Medalist Program at Joslin Diabetes Center recognizes those with diabetes who have been insulin-dependent for 25, 50, or 75 years.
Dr. Elliott P. Joslin instituted the Medalist program in 1948, awarding the first Victory Medal to those who had lived with the disease for 25 years. It wasn’t until 1970, however, that Joslin expanded the program and began awarding a 50-year Bronze Medal. In 1996, Joslin presented the first-ever 75-year medal.
The Program also offers a unique opportunity for researchers to collect information about this unique group of people—a significant number of whom remain virtually complication-free—even after living with diabetes for 50 or more years.
Participants who have received the 50-year medal are asked to complete an extensive questionnaire about their experience having diabetes and are invited to participate in the Medalist Study. The goal of this research is to determine the genetic, environmental, psychological and physiological factors that may contribute to their longevity.
What have we learned?
The results of the first phase of this research show that close to 50 percent of Medalists appear to have escaped the serious eye, kidney and nerve complications that typically occur after 30 years of living with the disease.
It was also determined that both genetic and metabolic factors contribute to the prevention of complications. The results also showed that, as a group, Medalists have controlled their blood glucose levels well for many years and hemoglobin A1c does not appear to correlate with complications. These exciting findings were published in Diabetes Care in 2007.
In the three years since the second phase began, approximately 400 Medalists have traveled to Joslin to participate in the study. The status of eye, kidney and nerve complications is being examined as is heart function, metabolic changes in blood and the ability to produce insulin. Genetic studies are also underway.
Through support from the JDRF, Joslin hopes to recruit approximately 300 more 50-year Medalists to help identify the factors responsible for protecting this distinct population from diabetes-related complications.
The results of this important research may provide the necessary clues for more effective treatments and even the cure for diabetes.
Read about the current 50-Year Medalists.
View Other Research
How can you get involved?
People with diabetes often feel as though they are at the mercy of a complex disease, with little agency to effect change or help find a cure.
By participating in the Medalist Program, participants actively assist in solving the mysteries of diabetes.
If you have have been living with type 1 diabetes for 50 or more years, you may be eligible to receive a medal and participate in the Medalist Study.
For information about how you can get involved:
Or e-mail: 50YMS@joslin.harvard.edu
Page last updated: December 19, 2014