What A Cure Looks Like.
I have had diabetes for close to fourteen years, and I have been an active diabetes advocate (sometimes it’s a second career) for just over six years and it all started when I was selected as a delegate for JDRF’s biannual Children’s Congress.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has been one of the strongest proponents for finding a cure for diabetes, and is the leading funder for cure research. They awarded more than a billion dollars to fund research.
Their research is all over the map. Among their projects are: islet cell regeneration, islet cell transplants, stem cell research and the artificial pancreas. They don’t fund everything, but they fund a lot.
Last night I was having dinner with a friend and the topic of the cure came up. As we discussed JDRF’s research, he asked me, “What does a cure look like to you?”
It struck me as an odd question at first.
Not wearing an insulin pump and pricking my finger, I thought. Perhaps that’s what you were thinking, too. But is that really all there is to it?
Having a guarantee that I wouldn’t ever get complications is another important qualification in whether or not I think something is a cure.
Let me ask you something. When JDRF announced they were going to oversee the research for the artificial pancreas, there was a big hullabaloo that this wasn’t a cure. But what if this artificial pancreas, this perfect closed-loop system, really did keep the blood sugars in the normal range forever and you only had to occasionally refill it with new insulin? You wouldn’t have to test your blood sugar, you would always have normal blood sugars, you would not suffer complications or stumble into the kitchen at three a.m. with a low blood sugar or worry about counting carbohydrates or get sick from ketones.
Take this other scenario. Islet cell transplants have been taking place since 2002. While they have not perfected the transplantation process to the point that the islet cells last forever, if they were able to transplant islet cells from a cadaver and you did not have to undergo any additional surgeries but you had to take anti-rejection medication (because any immunologist will tell you that if you put any foreign object – no matter how tiny it is – your body will reject it immediately), would you consider that a cure?
There is also islet cell regeneration, but even if you could regrow your islet cells, there is always the possibility your immune system would attack your cells again. Would taking a medication to prevent another assault be a cure?
Funding for something that you can’t really define must be very difficult, especially when you have limited funding and understanding of how research progresses. Everyone has their own idea of what their cure would be like, and perhaps it’s ona sliding scale. I would like stem cell research, but I’ll take the artificial pancreas or I want an unlimited supply of islet cells with no extra surgeries and no more drugs or I can do a surgery every couple of years, but otherwise, I don’t want to think about it.
When you think about it, none of these may really get rid of diabetes. There are remnants of what happened, a shadow on our daily life that reminds us of what we endured for years. But is it worth funding? I think so. I am in favor of anything that guarantees that diabetes will not cause any limitations like hypoglycemia and complications from affecting my ability to live out my dreams.
Is that the cure?