Joslin Medalist Meeting June 4, 2011

Drs. George King and Hillary Keenan head the Joslin Medalist Study. Dr. King presided over the meeting on Saturday, June 4, 2011.

The picture of the more than 100 medalists appears below. If you look in the back row, in the middle, at the guy standing taller than the rest, that is me. I am 6’ 2" and towered over almost all other medalists. There are several younger people in the picture who are not diabetics. They are doctors and staff members who were attending.

There are common themes among the more than 650 people in the Joslin Diabetes Study. According to Dr. George King, Joslin’s research director, these survivors are typically:

  • of Northern European ancestry, which tends to correlate with high socioeconomic status, high levels of education, and good health care and nutrition.

  • nonsmokers.

  • physically active.

  • children of parents who took control of their diabetes when they were very young, and they continue to do a good job of keeping their blood sugars low and stable.

  • children of parents who were long-lived — on average, 76-77 years.

  • matter-of-fact about their diabetes: They see it as an annoyance, but not a curse.

  • willing to participate in medical research about type 1 diabetes.

  • have a pancreas that has continued to make insulin-producing beta cells.

These themes were flashing on the screen as we entered the auditorium where the meet-up was held. I satisfy every theme but the last one. My C-peptide numbers on three occasions show that I do not produce insulin. Many of us gave short talks during the meeting. When I spoke I pointed out the fact that I do not produce insulin, and concluded that there must be factors other than insulin producing beta cells that explain longevity and good health for some of us.

Some of the things I carried away with me are as follows:

** The number of cases of type 1 diabetes being diagnosed in children under six years of age is rapidly increasing.

**There are approximately 2000 type 1 diabetics in the US who have lived long and have the protection, to varying degrees, shown by the medalists being studied. There are roughly 2 million type 1 diabetics in our country, and I’m sure many of the millions of younger type 1 diabetics will become Joslin Medalists and will be found to have this protection too.

** The medalists have protection against complications in their eyes, kidneys, and their nervous system, however, this does not apply to their hearts. We were told to take very good care of our hearts.

“Clues to this protection may be found in analyses of a family of proteins called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are increased by high blood sugar levels. In the study, subjects who exhibited two specific AGEs were more than seven times as likely to have any complication. But this study also demonstrated for the first time that a combination of two other AGEs is associated with protection against eye disease.”
Dr. King told us that these proteins, and many others as well, will be carefully examined in the next phase of the Medalist Study.

A good summary of the meet-up is given by this link:

In 2010 it was discovered that some medalists still produce some of their own insulin. The following discussion gives the details: