I was excited this week to see news about a few different promising studies- the first regarding algorithmically aided treatment of nighttime low glucose in children in the UK, and the second regarding promising research into hormone-based regeneration of insulin production in Type 1 diabetics. I have only recently started following diabetes-related news at all, so I have no real sense yet of whether this is a lot of good news, or the standard amount of good news, or even an inconsequential amount of sounds-good-but-they’ve-promised-that-before news. Nonetheless, these two pieces excited me more than normal diabetes research announcements for a few different reasons.
To begin with, the first of the studies I saw initially not through JDRF, or A Sweet Life, but in the New York Times. National news! Above-the-fold enough to make the @nytimes Twitter feed of headlines I follow. For better or for worse, diabetes, Type 1 included, has made its way into the national consciousness.
Plus, way to represent, San Diego! DexCom and the Salk Institute were each mentioned, and that gives me more of a sense of local pride than any football team or celebrity (nothing against the Chargers, of course).
The real encouragement for me, though, was the promise of new technology that I can see in each study. Two Holy Grails of Type 1 diabetes appear- the artificial pancreas and, even more rare, the natural regeneration of insulin production in Type 1 diabetics (wouldn’t that be grand? All natural normalcy! No extra pieces, no animal parts!). The latter still seems too far away to really get excited about, but the former seems infinitely possible, even in the short term. Consider all the money and mindpower spent creating predictive models for the financial markets and the economy; now imagine the implications if equal mindpower and time (I won’t go so far as to hope for equal money) are dedicated to developing models for diabetes treatment. I do not expect a perfect solution; but very accurate heuristics would be a whole lot better than me sitting here trying to remember what happened last time I ate this meal or bolused this much.
And finally, one statistic in the New York Times article that I was not aware of: “Industry analysts have estimated that 10 to 15 percent of Americans with Type 1 diabetes — perhaps 400,000 of them — use either a continuous glucose monitor or an insulin pump, or in some cases both.” Ten to fifteen percent! Hey, that’s not bad. That’s more than I expected. It pleases me to see diabetics with growing access to the best available technology. (And I’m sure it pleases DexCom, Animas, and Medtronic, too.)
One thought along these lines for the road– if you have any doubts that we as diabetics should be encouraged by and supportive of technological innovation and investment, check out this nice photo of an insulin pump in 1983 (taken from this collection of insulin pump pictures):