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August 9, 2000

Research: Cure

Question from America On-Line:

I am curious if you have run across any cures for type 1 diabetes. Has anyone who has type 1 diabetes actually gotten off of Insulin?


If by a cure you mean a complete restoration of normal insulin production, in a person’s own pancreas, then it has not yet been achieved. However, pancreas transplantation has become a very successful operation as has islet cell transplantation. but they exchange insulin dependence for dependence on immunosuppressive drugs. There are hopes too that techniques for encapsulating pig islets may evolve which would lead to insulin independence after a minor outpatient procedure, but one which might have to be repeated.

Type 1 diabetes is now divided into Type�1A (autoimmune) (antibody positive) diabetes to which the above paragraph applies and Type�1B (antibody negative) diabetes. In this latter group, about half the subjects may be able to manage without insulin after a number of weeks although present evidence is that this is likely to be a temporary state. This second type of diabetes is uncommon in Caucasian individuals, but comprises just over 50% of new onset cases in children in African American and Hispanic families in the U.S.