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September 13, 2008

Research: Cure

Question from Sonora, Mexico:

Eight years ago, when my now 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with type 1, I read your web site and others for new ways to treat this disease and a definite cure. Throughout those years, I always noticed that a cure was going to be in 10 years. This is a constant. Well, eight years have gone by and I'm still reading that there will be a cure in 10 years. Could you tell me where we really are on finding a cure? How close are we to getting something that really cures diabetes? I know this is a difficult question, but I want to share some hope with my daughter, real hope.

Answer:

Hundreds, if not thousands, of doctors, scientists, clinicians, and researchers are working tirelessly to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. Many different approaches are under study, from drugs that modify the immune system to techniques to encapsulate islets so as to eliminate the need for immunosuppression to technology to sense glucose levels and deliver insulin automatically (the artificial pancreas). Each of these techniques has had some success, but much more work is needed. The researchers I know no longer hazard a guess as to when a cure might be found. Instead, they focus their energies on moving the science forward.

You specifically mentioned that you wanted to share hope with your daughter. Without a doubt, the science shows us that kids with type 1 can live long and healthy lives using the tools available today. Insulin analogs offer better predictability of action than older insulins, helping to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. Insulin pumps and pens provide convenience and more precise dosing. Blood glucose meters now use very small amounts of blood, making it easier to check many times per day. Continuous glucose sensors, while still relatively new, provide enormous insight into the effects of food and exercise and can alert to impending lows and highs. Drug therapies, like statins and ACE inhibitors, make a big difference in helping to reduce the risk of complications.

I am personally very optimistic about my daughter’s future. I am confident that she will live to see type 1 diabetes cured. As parents, we should encourage our children to be attentive to their diabetes care, so that they will be healthy when type 1 diabetes is finally cured.

JSH