By Stephanie Spillmann 3/27/17   Updated: 7/14/17​

 

Astounding Potential Cures for Type 1 Diabetes

 

The cure for type 1 diabetes is closer than ever, but organ donation is crucial.

 

​If you love a type 1 diabetic like I do, listen up. There are amazing breakthroughs in the race for a cure, but they don’t make headline news as they should.

 

It’s a little-known fact that every person can help with this priceless cause. Read through to the end for important organ donor information.

 

With well over 500,000 young people living with type 1 diabetes worldwide, it is a shame that we don’t hear much about the amazing progress being made to erase this disease from our world.

 

Girl taking photo of the Met in New York city

What is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

 

I’m glad you asked. There is a world of difference between the two major types of diabetes. Most people think they are similar, and they are not.

 

Type 1 diabetes most often strikes children and young adults, but it can be diagnosed at any age. It is strictly an autoimmune disease. There is no way to prevent the disease, and there is no cure for it right now.

 

For unknown reasons, a person’s body begins attacking healthy pancreas cells. Eventually, all insulin-producing capabilities of this vital organ shut down, and the pancreas dies.

 

People who live with this diagnosis must use insulin multiple times a day, essentially acting as their own external pancreas. This includes constant blood sugar monitoring via finger prick.

 

Type 2 diabetes is usually slow-onset and is not autoimmune related. It can be genetic within families and is most often found in certain races and in the obese population.

 

Those living with type 2 diabetes often have a choice regarding life with insulin injections. Through diet and lifestyle changes such as increased exercise, decreased simple sugars in the diet, and careful monitoring of blood sugar, most type 2 diabetics can live a healthy life without daily medication. ​

 

Exciting Medical Breakthroughs in Type 1 Diabetes

 

Currently, the FDA has approved two exciting new studies for a type 1 cure. A long-awaited automated insulin delivery device, an artificial pancreas of sorts, has successfully been used to both monitor and deliver appropriate amounts of insulin throughout the day.

 

This amazing device is worn on a belt loop or attached to pants like a pager, and has a tiny tube that inserts under the skin of the patient’s side. It constantly monitors blood sugar levels and delivers necessary doses of insulin all in one swoop, greatly reducing spiked and bottomed-out blood sugars throughout the day.

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​Read more about the historic artificial pancreas.

Glucose monitor attached to jeans belt loop

   Photo credit: Medtronic 

Another earth-shattering breakthrough has progressed regarding transplants of healthy beta islet cells within patients’ abdominal tissue.

 

At the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute, Wendy Peacock, age 43, has successfully stopped all insulin injections, and has no further dietary restrictions after decades of having type 1 diabetes.

 

The success of this procedure depends on receiving enough healthy donor pancreas organs from which to harvest the life-saving islet cells. Although more trials are currently approved for this simple, three-incision surgery, long-term studies are still in the works to evaluate it as a permanent cure.

 

Organ Donation Shortage Could Severely Affect Cures

 

 

chart showing organ donation shortage in our country
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

 

Progress towards a permanent cure for type 1 diabetes involving islet cell transplant is in serious danger. The number of organ donors in our country has plummeted even as demand continues to rise sharply.

 

Healthy pancreas donations will be the cornerstone of islet cell therapies and cures in the future. The time to raise awareness and change our organ donation process is now.

 

Dozens of other countries have adopted the opt-out system for organ donation with great success. A person is considered an automatic donor unless they purposely opt out. Our country would do well to adopt such a process. One donor can save at least eight lives. That is well worth a fight for change!​

 

 

Boy drinking from water bottle

 

Early Signs of Type 1 Diabetes

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t leave you with the important warning signs of the onset of type 1 diabetes. For my own daughter, these were urgent signals that something was very wrong. If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, get tested immediately.

 

  • Extreme thirst (my daughter was still not quenched after more than ten water bottles a day)
  • Lethargy/tiredness
  • Weight loss (the body is not absorbing nutrients)
  • Excessive hunger (again, the body is starving for nutrients)
  • Increased urination
  • Sweet-smelling breath/wine odor (caused by extreme levels of blood sugar)
  • Heavy breathing and/or unconsciousness (untreated high blood sugar levels can lead to death)

 

Bright yellow sunflowers

 

Please consider becoming an organ donor, and talk with friends and family about how important it is.If you already are, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Be sure to tell your family about your decision so they will be clear about your wishes.

 

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply check the organ box at the DMV while applying for a driver’s license. For certain registry on the national organ donor list, sign up at organ donor.gov.


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