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New Research on Type 1 Diabetes

Feb 26, 2014

Last week, I attended a presentation by 1 of the 25 research scientists for JDRF. We have a great group of support staff here in San Antonio; they are committed, caring and really go the extra mile for their members. 

Their tagline is “Turn type 1 into type none.”  Their plan is to create a future with:

  • Less Burden – monitoring, carb counting
  • Less Invasion – finger sticks, injections
  • Less Complexity – timing of insulin, correlating carbs to insulin
  • Less Danger – from high and low glucose and complications

The speaker, who has had type 1 diabetes (T1D) since he was 14 years old, shared several areas of research which JDRF is funding:

Artificial Pancreas: This will eliminate blood glucose testing and carb counting by monitoring glucose values and automatically releasing insulin as needed.  He reported that the artificial pancreas is done, but they still need to improve the technology.  Studies continue to look at current platforms such as smartphones, CGMS and pumps. The system is ready and being marketed and sold by Medtronic in Europe.  The European market has shown good data, especially in the area of eliminating overnight low glucose.

Encapsulation: This would detect glucose in the blood, secrete insulin to control glucose and protect beta cells from an immune system attack. It would avoid immunosuppression, which often causes problems of its own.

Smart Insulin or Glucose Responsive Insulin: This would activate only when glucose goes up.

Restoration: This would be a biologic cure for T1D. This will involve the creation of new insulin producing cells.

Prevention: This would slow or stop the progression of T1D before beta cells fail and insulin dependence occurs.  The long term goal is to create a vaccine that would eliminate the risk of anyone developing T1D.

Medications: This would slow or stop the progression of the complications associated with diabetes. 

I read in another article today that there are over 30 drugs in development for T1D – either for prevention, regeneration of insulin producing cells or to treat complications.

The information I found most fascinating was that researchers are now finding that beta cells often “recharge” and that the pancreas will have occasional “bursts” of insulin. The speaker stated this might be an explanation for the honeymoon where beta cells resume functioning for varying lengths of time after the onset of T1D.  This may explain why it is so difficult to control T1D; just when things seem to be going well and glucose is under good control, the person will experience hypoglycemia.

The only thing I could think to say about this presentation was “We’ve come a long way, baby!”  For those too young to remember, this was a tagline for a cigarette for women – it might not be appropriate in that context, but we certainly have come a long way in our attempts to “turn type 1 into type none.”

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