Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's not the pancreas that's wonky...

I've been thinking about this lately.  I've read all of the Tagged posts.  So interesting to read the similarities and differences in how people deal, what they do, what they think, about the very same questions!  I hope I don't offend anyone by posting this.  Really, it's not intended in a "nit-picky" or critical way.  I'm posting more to raise up the hopes of some of you who sound so sure that a cure will not be found in our lifetimes.  To be honest with you, I doubt the cure too.  But, I don't let myself think about it much, because, really, I'm just busy living life as it is and not concentrating so much on the "what if" and "what then" thoughts.  Anyway, here's what I want to say about the whole cure thing and the nature of diabetes in general....

IT'S NOT THE PANCREAS THAT'S WONKY.  Scientists haven't always understood that.  When I was diagnosed, it was assumed that my pancreas was the culprit.  And then, about ten years ago, the thinking changed.  The research showed something new.  The pancreas wasn't the bad guy!  The pancreas functioned just fine in most other things.  But it just didn't produce insulin anymore.  Someone finally realized that the t-cells were the nasty, little bastards!  Those t-cells, who were supposed to be busy fighting the war with germs and viruses that invaded the body, turned traitor and killed off the beta cells in the pancreas.  Just the beta cells.  You have no idea what a break-through that was!  It suddenly explained why "curing" diabetes with a pancreas transplant just didn't work well.  In fact, in most cases, it made things worse.  A person got a pancreas transplant and they lost the good, functioning parts of their old pancreas.  If their body rejected the new pancreas, then they ended up in a really bad situation with a completely wonky, not-functioning pancreas.  So, transplants were out.  Islet cell transplantation started getting some notice.  But if someone got an islet cell transplant, then they  had to take non-steroid-based anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.  Know why that worked?  Because those drugs suppressed the immune system so that those little traitorous t-cells couldn't do their nasty work.  Stop taking those drugs and the t-cells go back to killing off the beta cells.  So now we're back to researching again.  Looking for something new, some new idea that doesn't suppress the entire immune system, doesn't take out the functioning parts of the pancreas.  What to do, what to do?  Well, here's where I give you some hope.  You see, there's been some recent news articles that I've found incredibly exciting.  Hope-filled, interesting.  Reading them has been like watching a light bulb turn on, seeing the sun break through the storm clouds.  There are two articles.  They basically say the same thing, but one is a bit longer.  One is from the U.S. about the University of Virginia.  The other is about research in Canada.  Definitely worth the reading.  And I hope it will give some of you a little bit of hope!

Promising Future

Vaccine to Reverse Diabetes

How cool would that be?  To go from poking teeny little fingers endless times each day, injecting insulin in its various forms and methods, to stopping by the doctor's office for a vaccine every few months?  THAT makes me hopeful!


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I feel as though I now have some serious food for thought.

  2. Wow, that would be amazing if we could reverse it with a vaccine shot every few months! I believe in a cure, I really, really do...I don't know how long it will take but I have HOPE!

    Thanks for sharing this Cindy :)

  3. Thanks for this awesome food for thought! Someone needs to put the T-cells in time out.


  4. Cindy...I agree whole heartedly...that is why I am skeptical of the SCR etc...THE IMMUNE system is the BAD GUY here. Anyway, I am looking forward to reading these articles. Thank you.

    Have a great day!!!

  5. Similar exciting stuff going on at the Faustman Lab in Mass.

    I will never give up hope for a cure or give up supporting research for a cure during my sons lifetime even though I am skeptical it will actually happen!!

    Great post!

  6. I will always hope. The time for amazing advances in medicine are not over. Thanks for the links!

  7. Don't give up on islet cell transplantation. I had one 2 years ago and am not using any insulin at all now. I do take the immunosuppressive drugs, but they really aren't that bad. I don't have to worry about low blood sugars ever, and that is a good tradeoff. Also they are getting closer to being able to transplant without immunosuppression. Islet cell transplants are not the endpoint of the cure, but they are close enough to give hope that we are almost there.