Diabetes Statistics and a Brief History of Diabetes Research and Treatment
While some believe that diabetes is a ‘modern disease’, it’s actually a condition that’s been around for an extremely long time. In fact, references to diabetes (albeit not under that name) have been found as far back as the 6th century B.C.E. However, it wasn’t until 1889, when German scientists Joseph Von Mering and Oskar Minkowski discovered the relation of the pancreas to the development of diabetes that the scientific community really began to understand the condition.
With that first discovery, doctors and scientists were able to begin studying diabetes and the pancreas further. In 1910, insulin was discovered. Eleven years later, Canadian doctors Frederick Banting and Charles Best managed to extract insulin from dog pancreases and inject it into dogs that were missing the organ. The result was a reduction of blood sugar in the dogs, and the birth of modern diabetes treatment.
While the wide availability of insulin has made diabetics’ lives easier and more fulfilling, it is by no means a cure for the condition. About 8.3% of the U.S. population are currently diabetes sufferers, and that number is expected to continue to rise. While diabetes affects people of all ages, rates of diabetes are higher in the older population. About 26.9% of people 65 and older suffer from diabetes.
Diagnosed diabetes cost the United States $174 billion in 2007 alone. It increases sufferers’ risk of stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney failure, and many other conditions. Even with insulin, sufferers’ quality of life is often reduced, sometimes severely.
Recent Clinical Advancements in Diabetes Research and Treatment
Luckily, we’ve come a long way since the invention of insulin. Scientists and researchers continue to make great strides in the field of diabetes research and treatment. From the development of new medications that make life easier for diabetics, to developments in the search for a cure for the disease, progress is being made every day.
Early Treatment Best for Type 2 Diabetes Patients
A recent study done by the UT Southwestern Medical Centre proved that early, aggressive treatment of type 2 diabetes keeps the body’s insulin-producing capacity from declining as sharply as it would otherwise. This reduces long-term complications and makes diabetes easier to manage in the long-term. This goes against the current standards of treatment for those who have just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which state that diet and lifestyle changes should be adopted before drug treatment.
The study, carried out by Dr. Lindsay Harrison, Beverly Adams-Huet, and Dr. Philip Raskin, proved that early, aggressive treatment with insulin and other diabetes drugs preserves beta-cell function and helps patients control their blood sugar levels and fare better in the long term.
Bydureon: a New Drug That Could Change Lives
Earlier this year, a new drug for Type 2 patients hit the market, and it has the potential to change lives.
Drug company Amylin received the FDA’s approval to sell Bydureon in January of this year, and doctors have been prescribing it to their patients ever since. While sales of the drug have been relatively modest thus far, that stands to change in the near future.
Bristol-Myers and Astrazeneca are in talks to buy Amylin, which could greatly increase the availability and sales of the drug. The companies are hoping to make the drug available to primary-care physicians, which would make it far easier for patients to obtain.
Experts such as David Kliff (of DiabeticInvestor.com) feel that Bydureon could completely change the treatment for type 2 diabetes patients and greatly increase their quality of life. Bydureon only needs to be injected once a week, making it a great alternative to the typical multiple insulin injections per day. It contains exenatide, which comes from the saliva of the Gila monster, and helps regulate glucose and can even aid in weight loss.
Stem Cell Treatment Reverses Diabetes in Mice
On June 27th, 2012, a study was published in the journal Diabetes that proved that human embryonic stem cell transplants can reverse diabetes in mice.
Over the course of the study, 13 scientists transplanted embryonic stem cells into the pancreases of a number of diabetic mice. The stem cells grew into insulin-secreting cells, and over the next four or five months, scientists were gradually able to wean the mice off insulin.
While this is a huge step in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, science still has a long way to go before the treatment will be viable for humans. Currently, recipients of islet cell transplants must take anti-rejection drugs, which are known to cause organ damage, for the rest of their lives. Also, the cells required for the transplants are in short supply. Finally, some of the mice used in the study did develop certain abnormalities as a result of the treatment, meaning that the approach must be altered to eliminate the negative effects.
Despite these hurdles, this study is great news for diabetes patients, as it shows that we are on the right path toward eradicating diabetes once and for all.