Can we cure diabetes?

One in 12 of us has diabetes and 50% of people with diabetes don’t know they have it!

The recently published Diabetes Atlas by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that world now has almost 400M diabetics, rising to approximately 600M by 2035. China leads with approximately 96M with India at number two with about 66M and the USA in third place with close to 26M! An even more alarming number is the percentage of the population deemed to be pre-diabetic. Treating diabetes and its consequences (strokes, blindness, amputations and kidney failure) has cost at least $600 billion globally in 2014!

Diabetes is caused by either the pancreas not producing enough insulin, or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced. There are three main types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 diabetes, which results from the body’s failure to produce enough insulin. The cause is unknown. In the UK type 1 diabetics represent about 10% of the overall diabetics community.
  2. Type 2 diabetes begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly. As the disease progresses a lack of insulin may also develop. The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.
  3. Gestational diabetes, is the third main form and occurs when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop a high blood glucose level.

Medical advances to date have seen the invention of pharmaceutical products such as man-made insulin, to overcome the lack of insulin produced by the body, which is usually self-injected by the diabetic.

Technology and science advances, such as in the field of regenerative medicine, could create further revolutionary options for diabetics.

  • Last month, researchers at Harvard University published a paper where they announced that they had created insulin-producing cells, derived from stem cells, in their laboratory and had done so in the massive numbers needed to allow the cells to be transferred into a diabetic patient. The researchers have also been successful in preventing the human body immune system from destroying these implanted cells.
  • This week, scientists in Israel have developed an implantable bio-artificial pancreas has started clinical trials. This artificial pancreas has been implanted in eight diabetic patients where it will simulate and emulate the functionality of the pancreas, which should enable these patients to no longer worry about insulin injections and glucose levels and be able to eat what they want.

These are exciting new developments destined primarily for Type 1 diabetes patients. Some of these new solutions could also help those type 2 diabetics who are dependent on insulin injections.

We should however not lose from sight that the “best cure” for the most prevalent type of diabetes remains preventing the causes through better management of our lifestyles and diets.

Technology and medical science advances are disrupting healthcare as we know it. Our book called iDisrupted, gives greater insight into the breadth and depth of technology disruption in healthcare and other aspects of our lives. iDisrupted is available on Amazon now.

beta o2 artificial pancreas managing diabetes stem cell