It’s really important that we all keep ourselves informed about this research. I’ve always had a dream to attend a summit of type 1-specific researchers, where it wasn’t simply about reporting on the status of the research and communication of that status, but an opportunity for these various researchers to exchange meaningful data with each other. I’d pay good money to watch that happen. I’d also love to meet some of these people. I mean, I’m middle-aged now. I don’t have kids. I don’t know what time I have left. The trajectory of my life has been determined by my having type 1. I would like to think that a kid who’s diagnosed isn’t going to have to make the same kinds of concessions or face the same harsh realities I have faced.
Of the projects you mention in your footnote, the only one I hold out hope for is islet encapsulation.
When I was first diagnosed, a professor of endocrinology from Harvard Medical School who was lecturing to the group of new patients I was in pleaded with us to try to maintain strict blood sugar control, since “it will only be another five years before we’ll have an artificial pancreas that will simply everything and prevent any damage.” The only problem was that that was in 1966, and the project has languished ever since. I don’t think any mechanical imitation of the subtle natural response of beta cells to glucose is ever going to prove adequate.
Since the immune system is enormously complex and vital for human health, any tampering with it is fraught with dangers, so I view all efforts to modulate the immune system as a way to cure diabetes with suspicion. So many interventions in the immune system cause cancer, such as the standard immunosuppression regimen for transplant patients, which causes cancer in 30% of organ recipients after a decade, that it would not be worth the risk of the intervention ‘just’ to cure diabetes. Even worse, it is now well-established that pancreatic beta cells do not regrow to any clinically significant extent when the autoimmune attack on them is lifted, so even with immunosuppression, we still wouldn’t have a solution. I think It is only worth working on this after we already have a reliable way to stimulate beta cells to regrow sufficiently.
The idea of developing an insulin that would be used by the body only as needed, possibly by isolating insulin molecules within a substance that would be worn down by glucose in the blood, came into prominence because of research in Milan, Italy, and Bordeaux, France, in 1984, so it has taken a very long time to get this to work. This makes me doubt it ever will.
The most promising project is encapsulating islets so that the capsule walls shield them from the immune system, since this involves no potentially carcinogenic tampering with the immune system itself. So far, the efforts have failed because it is difficult to keep the capsules adequately supplied with oxygen, but this is a small, mechanical problem which looks solvable in principle.
The problem with all strategies to ‘cure’ diabetes by curing diabetic hyperglycemia is that may well not be the entire problem in diabetes. A lot of research shows that the complications of diabetes are due to some extent to genetic influences inherited along with the same genes that are linked to the development of the diabetic autoimmune condition in the first place. Other research suggests that the continuing autoimmune attack, which originally caused the pancreatic beta cells to be destroyed, goes on to attack other parts of the body, such as the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the retinas, etc. What these other causes of complications would mean is that even if the blood sugar abnormalities of diabetes were repaired, complications might to some extent continue to develop. To fix that problem we might need genetic engineering, which is still many generations away from being clinically reliable.
AND most research today (not all, but most), even in universities, is funded by pharmaceuticals. And they fund only research that will yield a marketable product that will bring them profit. Research for the good of humanity is either grossly underfunded or dead. As it is, today we are being drowned in overpriced gadgets. I don’t hold much hope for a true cure anymore.
Furthermore, sharing information by researchers would never be allowed by their funding pharmaceutical entities because each one wants to keep their developments secret for the purpose of getting patents for a “leg up” in the marketplace.
As a side note: In my view, healthcare and corporate profits are not compatible IF the goal is a benefit to humanity.
I agree with you, Willow4. Every time I hear another ad on tv for some diabetic gadget, I see progress toward a cure fading farther away. The pharmaceutical-industrial complex is holding us captive for profits, and we keep eagerly buying more and more of them in order to keep our prison gates closed forever. How rarely does it occur to patients that perhaps the best way to advance a cure for diabetes would be to stick with MDI and band together to refuse to buy any new gadgets.
While I agree, I would never wish this disease on anyone, especially a child. I do feel that if I was diagonal vs 47 years ago, my outlook would have been much better. With all the different things we have now, the outlook isn’t nearly as horrible as it was back than. I mean with just blood testing meters, things got better!
I did give up hope of ever seeing a cure as each year passed. But I must say, I feel very hopeful that it will happen. And while it might not be in my lifetime, I will continue to do the best I can with what I have, so I am in reasonable good health, that I might be able to get that cure.
Been in enough studies to know there are very passionate people, fighting the fight for us. There are many out there who want the cure as much as we do.
It was still “five years” when I was dx’d in 1983. Pretty sure it’s still “five years” now. I did finally figure out that they never said which five years…
‘Five years’ is the distance between the donkey’s nose and the carrot suspended in front of him. It keeps him going, but he’s never going to get there.