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Outlook For Diabetes
By Jude Roberts

(Page 3 of 3)

Insulin Pill - believe it or not, the discovery of a new polymer substance may allow for the development of an effective insulin pill. When the polymer is used to coat a pill, it allows insulin to get into the bloodstream without being destroyed by the digestive system. So far, it has only been tested in animals, and some experts are questioning whether insulin in a pill form would prove to be safe or useful, since dosing requirements are is so critical and vary so often.

Continuous Monitoring Device - The FDA has approved a wristwatch-like device that provides more information for managing diabetes. It is intended to be used along with, but not as a replacement for, the fingertip blood test to monitor glucose, in order to ensure accurate results. Called the GlucoWatch Biographer, it works by extracting fluid through the skin by sending out tiny electric currents. The watch can be worn up to 12 consecutive hours, producing 3 monitor readings every hour, even while you’re asleep. An alarm will sound if blood glucose levels are detected to be dangerously low, or if a measurement was skipped. The watch can detect the presence of both by excessive sweat. The device is available only by prescription to detect trends and track patterns in glucose levels in adults age 18 and older.

Islet Cell Transplant - this new treatment comes from a technique known as an islet cell transplant which has shown promise in people with type 1 diabetes. Islet cells are found in the pancreas, and the procedure, called the Edmonton technique, has resulted in seven patients becoming insulin free for up to 14 months after treatment. Clinical trials have now begun at 10 national diabetes centers to see if the insulin reversal can be successful with more patients. The Edmonton technique uses islet cells from two or more donor pancreases. The cells are transplanted into a person with diabetes and then special medications are given to prevent rejection of the new islet cells. One difficulty with the transplant is that even though a person may become free of the need to take insulin, the medications to prevent rejection of new tissue must be taken for a lifetime, and these medications can have side effects.

Gene Therapy - recent reports show that research into gene therapy for different aspects of diabetes is beginning to show some promise. Scientists have identified a gene called SHIP2 that appears to regulate insulin, which would make SHIP2 a potential gene therapy target for the treatment of type 2 diabetes aimed at improving the individual’s insulin regulation. There’s also a protein that blocks the overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes which  is being studied as a possible form of gene therapy for diabetic retinopathy, and it may also be used to treat macular degeneration.

A Possible Vaccine Against Diabetes? - scientists have developed the world’s first drug that stops the destruction of pancreatic beta cells in humans. It offers the possibility of preventing type 1 diabetes in people at high risk and of halting its progress in people newly diagnosed with it. The vaccine contains a drug which is a peptide (a type of protein). By modifying a small portion of the protein, a drug has been created which can selectively block the activity of immune cells which tend to attack the pancreas. In other words, the drug or “vaccine” deactivates the cells which attack the pancreas without interfering with the rest of the body’s immune system.


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