October 17, 2002
Question from Saudi Arabia:
I am 14 years old, and I have type 1 diabetes. Is there any research going on for children with diabetes so I can get rid of this life-long disease?
It would take too long even to summarise all the research that is taking place on diabetes in children and teenagers on understanding exactly what goes wrong biochemically, and on trying to prevent and improve the treatment of the various types. However, I expect that what you are most interested in is a way to avoid the constant injections and finger sticking for blood sugars. The best hope here for the time being is for a completely reliable glucose sensor that can be placed beneath the skin or in the abdominal cavity that can be linked to an insulin pump. You’d still have to check occasionally, and there will have to be a good alarm system if the least thing went wrong mechanically; but trials have started.
Long term, the most likely ‘cure’ is going to be some form of transplantation. Here there are two problems. The first is that only a few human insulin producing cells are available so that some effective alternative has to be found, and the second is the need to protect any new cells from the body’s immune system for the rest of your life Here again though a lot of progress is being made.
Look after yourself well in the meantime, and I am sure that before too long there will be an opportunity for you..
[Editor’s comment: Lots of the research going on is in adults, but should also apply to kids and teens sooner or later. For example, see islet cell transplants at this website, and Pancreas Transplantation at the Diabetes Monitor.