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article imageOp-Ed: Diabetes progress and promise dinner

By Walt Crocker     Nov 7, 2014 in Health
November is National Diabetes Month. At the recent ADA Progress and Progress Dinner, volunteers were honored and the future of diabetes research was discussed by an expert panel.
The Edward Jones office complex sits on top of a hill at Manchester Road and Highway I-270 near St. Louis, Missouri. It is an imposing structure that looks like it might have been made out of concrete Lego blocks or a bunch of old square Nintendo figures stacked precariously on top of each other. But don’t get me wrong, the few times I have been there checking into my massive fortune garnered from the stock market, it was very nice…and classy. (I wish.)
I was there again a couple of nights ago, but this time it was to attend the American Diabetes Association volunteer appreciation night: Progress and Promise. By the way, November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. I’ve had diabetes since I was a kid and recently became an advocate for both the ADA and the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). I felt a little guilty attending an appreciation dinner for the volunteers since I was so new I hadn’t really done anything yet, but there were some interesting speakers and I want to keep up with the latest about the disease and there is certainly a lot to be excited about. I recently published a book about my 45 years with Type 1 diabetes which includes not only my story, but the latest in the frontiers of research. The book came out in April of this year and already new developments have surpassed it.
The panel of distinguished researchers from Washington University talked about gestational diabetes, diabetes and the brain, the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and that the impact of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is much more important than previously thought. They also cautioned that news reports about the potential for a cure sometimes can be a trifle over optimistic. All the researchers there feel that there will be a cure, but it just won’t happen tomorrow. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Right now, the two most promising areas of research are the “artificial pancreas” and “islet cell encapsulation.” The artificial pancreas would combine the existing technology of an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, with the ability to add glucose in the form of glucagon if the blood sugar gets too low. This would then closely resemble the processes in the body of a person without diabetes.
The other area of research is dealing with injecting the cells (islet) that produce insulin in the body to “seed” something that would closely resemble the area of the pancreas that makes insulin. These cells are now being transplanted from cadavers, but there is a shortage and the biggest drawback is that the patient has to be on immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives. Work is now being done on a type of encapsulation procedure that would protect these fragile cells from being attacked by the immune system and rejected. The membrane would let blood and oxygen in and insulin out, but also protect the cells from the body’s own defenses. It would also be nice if we could make these cells with stem cells so they wouldn’t be rejected in the first place.
We will have a cure for diabetes; it’s not a matter of if, but when. So support your local ADA and JDRF and put me and the other volunteers out of business, or at least change the roles that we play. Celebrate National Diabetes Month. Get tested.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Diabetes, American diabetes association, Diabetes cure, diabetes research
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