Posted: 05/30/2016

An Alternative Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes May Be Close

No_insulin_injections

Diabetes is a disease suffered by more than 25 million people nationwide and is divided into two categories, Type 1 and Type 2. Though they share many similarities, there are distinct differences between them. Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which insulin-producing cells have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce the hormone; Type 2 diabetes exists when the body is not able to produce enough insulin or the body has developed a resistance to insulin. Of the two, Type 2 diabetes is most often a result of lifestyle, developing due to being overweight, having a poor diet, and a lack of exercise. While it is also treated with insulin, its effects can be reversed.

Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is believed to be the result of genetic factors or exposure to certain viruses and currently has no cure. It typically appears in childhood or adolescence (although it can develop in adults) and is most likely to develop between the ages of 4 and 7 and then again between 10 and 14 years. More than 1.25 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes and must receive diabetes treatment, which is most often insulin injections, for the rest of their lives.


Type 1 Diabetes Diagram

Treating Diabetes with Insulin Injections
Diabetes is treated with injections of insulin, like Humalog, (a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone) or use of insulin pumps; insulin must be administered on a regular basis to prevent serious or deadly complications from arising. In addition to undergoing a lifetime of storing, maintaining, and self-administering insulin, patients are also burdened with having to constantly monitor blood glucose levels in order to time insulin administration, as well as having to constantly control their diet and exercise regimen. Unfortunately, errors in readings, timing of injections, and other random factors can have devastating consequences.

New Type 1 Diabetes Treatment
Fortunately, hope may be on the horizon as funded research involving scientists from MIT, Harvard, and Boston Children’s Hospital may have found a treatment that restores the body’s ability to produce insulin for extended periods.

The process involves transplanting islet cells encapsulated in an alginate, triazole-thiomorphiline dioxide (or TTMD), a derivative of brown algae. During the study, when these cells were implanted in mice, they began producing insulin immediately. While implanting of islet cells has been performed in the past, the recipient’s immune system always attacked them, rendering them useless and, in some cases, forcing patients to begin a lifetime of taking immunosuppressant medication. Encapsulating the transplant cells with TTMD shields the cells from the immune system, allowing insulin production to continue for six months.

To date, the research has involved only mice, but the study is now poised to begin testing in non-human primates. If the results are as promising, the next step will be to conduct formal testing on humans, one of the final steps towards approval. While it is still not a cure for Type 1 diabetes in the technical sense, it is one step closer, and the fact that it eliminates daily injections and constant monitoring is a significant step forward for those who must manage their Type 1 diabetes during the course of their lives. 

By HelpRx Staff Writer

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About the HelpRx.info Blog

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