Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder afflicting millions of people worldwide. Once diagnosed, patients require lifelong insulin treatment and can experience numerous disease-associated complications. The last decade has seen tremendous advances in elucidating the causes and treatment of the disease based on extensive research both in rodent models of spontaneous diabetes and in humans. Integrating these advances has led to the recognition that the balance between regulatory and effector T cells determines disease risk, timing of disease activation, and disease tempo. Here we describe current progress, the challenges ahead and the new interventions that are being tested to address the unmet need for preventative or curative therapies.