I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus at the age of 30. With Type 1 diabetes, the body has an auto-immune response, usually following an illness (I had the flu), and starts making anti-bodies that attack and destroy the Islet of Langerhans cells in the pancreas. The islet cells produce the body’s insulin. Insulin is required for nutrients to pass from the blood into the body cells. With the destruction of the islet cells, insulin has to be introduced into the body artificially. Diabetes has been recognized by the medical community for over 3000 years. A diagnosis of diabetes (type 1) was a death sentence within a year, at the longest. Until the 20th century.
On January 23, 1922, doctors and researchers at the University of Toronto (Canada) starting experimentally treating a recently diagnosed insulin patient (14 year-old Leonard Thompson) by injecting him with a refined sample of animal insulin. Leonard’s symptoms improved, and he went on to live another 13 more years by taking daily insulin injections. “The University of Toronto immediately gave pharmaceutical companies license to produce insulin, free of royalties. By 1923, insulin had become widely available, saving countless lives around the world, and (Dr. Frederick) Banting and (Dr. J.J.R.) Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.” from History.com
By the time I was diagnosed 66 years later, the technology of injectable insulin has advanced considerably. Insulin by then was no longer extracted animal insulin, but was manufactured in a lab (recombinant human insulin). Pure, inexpensive, and GMO at its lifesaving best. I began taking multiple injections of insulin daily.
I have a cousin who is a diabetes research doctor, and he spent many years studying ways to implant new islet cells in the body where the anti-bodies would not locate and destroy them. This line of research has had limited success. I participated in a research study a few years ago into inhaled insulin. But to date, the biggest advance in insulin therapy has been the insulin pump. The pump provides a constant flow of insulin via a subcutaneous catheter, and can provide a manual bolus, or boost, of insulin when eating or when blood sugar levels rise above a set level. Diabetic complications are greatly reduced when blood sugar levels are regulated.
The next step is the artificial pancreas, which will combine the pump with a constant glucose monitor that will work jointly to adjust insulin levels to continuously control glucose (sugar) levels. The FDA granted initial approval for such a system late last year.
Not a bad track record, to go from being able to keep type 1 diabetics alive with injections of animal insulin to being able to manufacture cloned human insulin and regulate its use artificially in under a century when dealing with a disease that has been recognized for over 30 centuries.