When Will We See a Cure for Diabetes?

I received an enquiry via the Contact Me form today. It read as follows:

“Thank you for the rewarding site. Our son (5 years old) was just diagnosed type 1 out of the blue and we are already fighting to get him the best care here in the states. In your research, how far off is an effective “cure” to help with the annoyance of 4 times a day shots?”

It greatly upsets me to know children get Type 1 Diabetes. Not so much for the children themselves, as they know no different, but for the parents who will spend the rest of their child’s childhood looking out for them, monitoring their glucose levels in the night etc. and constantly worrying about their child. I replied back and thought the response may be of interest to others.

Here is my response to the query.

“Thank you for writing to me and your kind words. Obviously sorry to hear about your son but it is remarkable how quickly medical research and technology is moving.

In terms of a cure, the running joke in the Type 1 community is “a cure is 5 years away”. A joke because doctors have been saying this for decades.

In truth though, there are promising avenues from diabetes vaccines (where the immune system is trained to fight the parts of the immune system attacking the pancreas) through to “reboot” strategies for the immune system. None of these will be widespread for at least another 5-10 years though, assuming they prove successful.

Where we are seeing real improvement is in diabetes management. For example, check out Genteel for pain-free finger pricking. There are also candidates for non-invasive glucose monitoring through earrings and watches although these are still very much early prototypes.

Looping technology (having a glucose monitor talk to an insulin pump and automatically manage glucose levels) has gone from the realm of online hackers to mainstream FDA-approved devices in just a few years. A friend of mine who is at the forefront of pushing looping technology to its current limits posted this today:

“My BG (Blood Glucose) peaked at 250 this afternoon!
Mind you, I had treated myself to a whole 180g block of Dairy Milk Chocolate (so ~105g carbs). And a fruit yoghurt bowl (21g). And some other snacks but I can’t remember their carb counts.
And it did come down and flatten off in the 70s a few hours later before coming back to 90.”

Eating an entire block of chocolate and having looping technology effectively manage without intervention or injections is remarkable. He is a professional photographer who (pre-COVID) travelled the world, despite being Type 1. He is quite an inspiration and proof that Type 1 does not have to stop you achieving whatever you want in life.

Similarly, implantable beta cells are very close to reality and we will likely see this in a few years. The idea is you put an implant under the skin then size of, say, half a matchstick and it releases insulin as required, eliminating the need for injections. Eventually the immune system destroys it, after a few years, and a new implant is put in.

The new generations of insulin are also proving more and more remarkable. We now have a once-weekly basal injection, insulins like Fiasp which is faster than ever before, even faster inhalable insulin such as Afrezza, and “smart” insulins which stay in the blood and only activate when blood sugar starts increasing.

The proof the technology is improving is in the increased life expectancy for Type 1 Diabetics. It is my opinion that for a newly diagnosed Type 1 and the technology now available, there is no reason to expect them to have a shorter life expectancy than their non-diabetic contemporaries (https://practicaldiabetic.com/2020/10/22/easd-2020-life-expectancy-of-diabetics/).

Good luck and if you have any other questions, do not hesitate to email me.”

The gentleman I mention in my response, who is truly an inspiration to me and I am sure many other people with diabetes, is David Burren.

If you have questions which you would like me to answer or research, feel to also fill in the Contact Me form and I will tell you my thoughts and findings.

3 thoughts on “When Will We See a Cure for Diabetes?

  1. Jon Deutsch March 2, 2021 / 4:03 am

    Excellent post. Thank you. I was unaware that the once-weekly basal insulin was approved. I guess it’s not approved yet in the States.

    Like

    • leontribe March 4, 2021 / 12:35 am

      Icodec (weekly basal insulin) is not yet approved but would be close to it given it has passed human trials and the last I head about “smart insulin” (i-insulin) was it was about to enter human trials so, hopefully that will bear fruit.

      Like

      • Jon Deutsch March 4, 2021 / 7:38 am

        Thank you. Looks like Icodec was tested for Type 2 only so far. While on one level it makes sense that you’d test insulin for each different type of diabetes, on the other hand, it seems awkward that a Type 1 couldn’t benefit from the same technology for another year+ due to clinical trial scheduling.

        Like

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