The Future of Type 1 Diabetes Treatment
Since the development of insulin in the 1920s, diabetes has gone from an often deadly disease to one that is usually manageable. Of course, people with diabetes need to be diligent about taking their medication and administering insulin shots. That’s particularly true of people with type 1 diabetes, who must give themselves daily injections while monitoring their glucose levels. Dealing with their condition is a constant part of their daily lives.
But there are treatments being developed that could give people with diabetes much more freedom. Here are some of the more notable ones.
Islet cell transplants
Islet cells in the pancreas produce insulin. Trials have been done in which islet cells from deceased donors are given to people with type 1 diabetes whose own islet cells have stopped working properly. This treatment has been proven to be very effective, but not without caveats. It lasts only a few years and as yet, there is not a large pool of donors. The body may reject the cells as well. Time will tell if this method proves to be effective long-term.
A bionic pancreas is driven by a smart phone that performs all the essential functions of a real pancreas. Sound like sci-fi? Well, welcome to the future because several people are already using the device and the results have been positive. The bionic pancreas is made up of a smart phone, a continuous blood sugar monitor, and pumps that automatically deliver the amount of insulin that body needs. Although those using the bionic pancreas are doing so only as part of a trial at several different research institutes, the effectiveness of this appears promising.
For reasons not well known, the immune system does not work properly for people with type 1 diabetes because the insulin-producing cells are attacked. A “reverse” vaccine has been researched both domestically and internationally and shows promising results. The vaccine essentially shuts down part of the immune system to stop the attacking of the insulin-producing cells. Researchers in the UK have stated that the vaccine may be ready in about 20 years.
New research has yielded the insulin-producing cells created from stem cells that can then be injected into a host, such as a person with type 1 diabetes. Stem cells are being used to develop treatments for all sorts of ailments because they are able to mature into any type of tissue cell in the body. In recent years the production of stem cells can be done much more quickly than in the past.