Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas are studying a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes that they hope will be a major step forward in the management of the disease, which affects the daily lives and lifelong health of millions of people.

The study is funded by Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Amylin Pharmaceuticals.

UT Southwestern physicians leading the study said Tuesday that they have been able to control levels of blood glucose in animals using metreleptin, a synthetic version of the human hormone leptin.

If the same result can be achieved in humans, it could have an enormous impact on how Type 1 diabetes is controlled, with the hope that it could reduce the number of daily insulin injections diabetics must now endure, researchers said during a news conference at Dallas City Hall.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. It must be controlled with insulin injections because the disease destroys the body’s ability to produce the hormone, which regulates blood glucose.

It differs significantly from Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, which is often caused by obesity and can sometimes be controlled through changes in lifestyle.

Dr. Roger Unger, chairman of diabetes research at UT Southwestern, called the findings about metreleptin a huge development in the study of the disease, but was cautious about where they might lead.

“This is, of course, a trial, and we are eager to get more volunteers, provided everyone understands there is no guarantee it is going to work. But our fingers are crossed, and amazing results in animals give us hope it will also be of value to humans,” he said.

Dr. Gregory Clark, an endocrinologist at UT Southwestern who has Type 1 diabetes and has dedicated himself to finding a cure, said data show that, in mice, it is easier to control the disease with leptin than with insulin.

UT Southwestern is looking for young adults who are not overweight to participate in the trial, Clark said.

Patients in the trial will take metreleptin, along with insulin, over a five-month period while their insulin doses are gradually reduced.

The initial trial is expected to include about 15 patients and is funded for three years.