Friday, 10 October 2014

The cure? Could it be?

Diabetes 'cure' stories are ten-a-penny these days; as a routine today as collecting your prescription or brushing your teeth. Some hinge on theories or ideas still decades off materialising into anything tangible. Others - okra-cocktails and vegan-raw-superfood diets - are simply hokum. I barely register them anymore, because the psychological bashing that allowing yourself to believe that the rigmarole and emotionally-draining long-term management of a chronic condition could be over, is a bashing I am happy to forego. 

But this morning, as I stood over respectable broadsheet 'The Times' laying on the pile of newspapers at the corner shop, reading and re-reading the title, my heart started to thump a little faster, and I was oblivious to the world around me. 

"Diabetes: a cure at last" it read.

I'd seen a photo of the headline in my Facebook timeline and for the first time ever, had made the effort to pick up a copy and take a closer look at the research. In the past efforts to cure diabetes have been dogged by issues. Islet transplants overshadowed by the need for anti-rejection drugs and limited lifespan of the cells once transplanted, not to mention the 3-4 donors (passed-away people) need per diabetes patient. Stem cell researchers needing to did a way to tailor cells to each individual patient, a task so major that those diagnoses would outweigh cured patients at a rate of knots. And then there was the 'bio-hub' fiasco. A great idea, but little more than an idea, pulling at the heart strings of parents and adults desperate to see an end to diabetes. If was no more than a funding drive, aimed at bringing in the dollars before it could get underway. 

The story in today's paper, was different. It wasn't an idea. It wasn't a piece of research now setting our to address the many anomalies they identified. It wasn't a funding drive. It is a piece abut the success scientists working at Harvard - already 23 years in the making - have seen in identifying a strain of genetically modified stem cells which can be transplanted into ANY person with type 1 diabetes, and 10% of people with type 2, in large enough quantities to eliminate the need for insulin. The cells, protected within a proud capsule (think bio-hub, only already in existence) allowing them not only to be protected from immune attack, but also removed quickly if they were to stop working. The study did say that it would be a number of years before we would be using this routinely in patients, but that it is already in final non-human primate trials, before human trials begin.

Could it be? 

What's more, the article tells of how one of the lead scientists, Professor Doug Melton, chose this field of research when his son was diagnosed with type 1 at six months old. Later, his daughter would receive the same diagnosis. I liked this guy already, now, I really understand his passion. 

As I sit here in my car having thumbed through the pages of the article, my CGM alarming to tell me that my glucose levels have gone over the range I need them to be in today already, the idea that there may be an end to this one day is a dream. It seems possible, but in the murky, strange way a dream does: moments of vivid clarity followed by moments of 'naaaah, it can't be'. 

I will let the human trials commence before I let my mind set on the idea of one day not having to worry and fret my way through each day, living a life dictated by numbers, portion sizes and thinking about the future in all the wrong ways. What's more, the idea that my children, who one day may face the same diagnosis, may avoid the decades of injections, food measuring and finderpricks I have, somehow gives me peace. 

I hold on to hope. 

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