As 2013 comes to an end, we’re taking a look back at our best diabetes articles of the year. From science and technology to personal essays to op-ed, we’re been overwhelmed with the quality of our writers’ work. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as we’ve enjoyed publishing.
This year marked a milestone for ASweetLife. We incorporated as a nonprofit, the Diabetes Media Foundation. We hope you’ll support us in this endeavor so we can expand our reach and bring you more content.
Thank you all for making this ASweetLife’s best year yet.
Happy New Year!
Comparing Dexcom G4 Platinum and Medtronic Minimed by Karmel Allison
When I originally chose the Minimed, one of the biggest deciding factors was that I was already wearing a pump, and didn’t want to carry around an extra receiver (which, at the time, was the fugly, egg-shaped Dexcom one). Switching over to the Dexcom, I worried about the extra burden of yet another device, but two months in, it hasn’t been that bad. The receiver was designed to look Apple-y, and it’s fun to show off the color plot of my blood glucose values to all my (admittedly geeky) friends. My first thought– and several friends have echoed this– was that it looks like an old, knock-off iPod. Beyond style, though, this means that the device is small and light, and I can carry it in my pocket. (As a point of comparison, I can’t carry my iPhone comfortably in my pocket, so smaller-than-my-pocket is an important measure.) Read more
An Attempt to Cure Type 1 Diabetes by Alex O’Meara
I got diabetes twice. Once when I was 11, and the second time when I was 42. It took the second time to show me all that I’d learned from it the first time around.
When I was 40 years old I had a unique opportunity to take part in a clinical trial to cure type 1 diabetes by receiving an islet cell transplant. Islet cells are the actual engines of insulin production in a pancreas. By transplanting islet cells into my liver it was hoped they would function like islet cells do in a person without diabetes, and I would be cured of the condition that had defined a great deal of my life for almost 30 years. Read more
In the Waiting Room, A Dance by Jane Kokernak
“Clean your hands here.” The sign, next to a pump bottle filled with clear gel, welcomes me to the hematology/oncology suite at this Boston hospital. Everywhere I go — grocery store, gym, elementary school — I am exhorted to do my part in the war against germs. Sanitized, I take the clipboard from the receptionist and fill out forms before moving among clusters of chairs, looking for a magazine other than Golf or Prevention. I study a hospital pamphlet that hyperbolizes hope. It irritates me. But I am often irritated by cheerful messages conveyed in institutional publications. It’s not hope I dislike. It’s the prescription of hope. These hospital pamphlets remind me of the churchy magazines for children that were stacked on the end tables in the waiting room of my childhood dentist. They often featured fictional stories of dying children who were promised a future with God, and they terrified me.
As a person with a chronic illness – I was diagnosed as an adult with Type 1 diabetes more than 20 years ago – I have spent a lot of time in medical waiting rooms. I have come to know their rhythms and reading material well. Read more
Why is Everyone Talking About Glucagon by Karmel Allison
The problem is that glucagon is a finicky peptide, even more so than insulin. The glucagon in rescue kits is a powder, because glucagon does not stay dissolved in saline. In order to have glucagon to use in daily treatment or pump systems, we need it in liquid form. Up until now, no one has been able to create a stable, soluble glucagon — arguably because there is no reason for pharmaceutical companies or academics to invest so much time and effort into solubilizing a hormone that is only used in rescue kits.
Several companies, including Enject and, more recently, Biodel, are trying to create devices that make it easy to mix the powder and saline on-demand. This solves the problem of the hard-to-use rescue kits, but does not solve the glucagon problem for pumps or frequently used, glucose-tab-sized micro-doses of glucagon. However, all the excitement around glucagon in the artificial pancreas has led the JDRF to enter into partnerships with two new companies trying to make soluble glucagon. Read More
Accepting Diabetes: A Man’s Journey by Marlin Barton
I’d known the symptoms since I was ten years old. My maternal grandmother was a Type 1 diabetic with highly fluctuating blood sugar, what was called a “brittle” diabetic then, and I remember watching her give herself shots of insulin while sitting at a desk in her kitchen early in the morning beneath a small light. Like all kids, I hated shots. I told her I could never do that. “Yes you could,” she said most gently, “if you had to.”
At age thirty-seven, I began to notice a constant thirst, and of course an almost constant need to urinate. What I didn’t really notice was the weight loss, not until people I knew began to comment on how thin I looked. One symptom I didn’t know about was the fatigue. I just knew every afternoon I needed a nap, and in an attempt to keep my energy level up, I’d eat a candy bar, which now strikes me as downright funny. Read More
Why You Should Worry About the Accuracy of Your Glucose Test Strips by Catherine Price
there is currently no system in place in the United States to ensure that test strips and meters continue to achieve this level of accuracy once the FDA has cleared the meter for market. (What’s more, the FDA’s initial approval is based on data supplied by the manufacturers themselves; not from random meters bought off store shelves.) This means that if a meter got cleared for sale ten years ago, the FDA has likely never evaluated the meter again. Suppliers change; manufacturing practices change; production line managers change; production sites change. All of these factors can affect quality and accuracy (and, if those studies are to be believed, definitely are affecting quality and accuracy) — and yet there is no requirement or system in the United States for any sort of post-market quality assurance. Read More
Sticking it to Diabetes by Kerri Sparling
I’m not anti-cupcake. Quite the contrary – I think they’re delicious, I love baking them, and I love making them as decadent as possible. They are a treat, and an excellently indulgent one, at that.
But man, they are an absolute disaster for my blood sugars. Rarely do I have a cupcake (or similarly sweet treat) without seeing either a high blood sugar as a result of under-bolusing, or a low blood sugar due to overcompensating for the mountain of frosting. I can’t lie and pretend I have the whole cupcake-to-chaos avoidance ratio figured out. My diabetes simply doesn’t respond well to overly-indulgent treats.
“People with diabetes can eat anything,” ”they” say.
Yes, yes they can. They can physically bring a food item to their mouth and consume it. This is true. It’s not a matter of “can’t,” but “should.”
“People with diabetes shouldn’t ever eat cupcakes,” the “other they” says.
I have a hard time accepting absolutes. The absolutes are what make me feel frustrated.
“People with diabetes shouldn’t ever eat cupcakes, or have babies, or eat gluten, or lick wallpaper, or ride unicycles, or shimmy their shoulders sassily on airplanes.” Or, “People with diabetes should always prick the side of their fingers – never the pad! – and CGM sensors can only be worn on the abdomen and if you’re not on an insulin pump, you aren’t trying hard enough.”
People with diabetes aren’t all the same. There isn’t a one-size fits all model to management, and what works for one person may not work entirely for another. (Actually, what works for one person on one day might not work entirely for her on another day.) Read More
Who Cares About Type 1 Diabetes Anyway? by Karmel Allison
Plus, in America, most type 1 diabetics are not ‘charity cases.’ We proudly proclaim that we can do anything. That anything comes with big caveats — almost anything, assuming I allocate 50% of brain power to blood sugar management, and at least for the first few decades until complications catch up to me — but, still, we’re trying to figure out how to make daily care less burdensome, not trying to figure out how to live past the age of twelve.
No, I’m not angry or surprised that payers aren’t meeting our needs, that no one makes an amylin/insulin mix yet, or that strangers think my pump is a pager. Frankly, I appreciate that anyone gives us the time of day at all.
But they do. Lots of people do. The payers showed up for this conference, there are a number of successful companies serving primarily type 1 diabetics, and there is an entire research community around type 1 diabetes. Heck, we even appear in our fair share of movies.
Instead of getting offended when people don’t care enough, perhaps we should consider what does make people care about type 1 diabetes. Then we can meet people where they are, and help them help us. So why do people care about type 1 diabetes? In my ill-researched, off-the-cuff opinion, here’s what matters: Read More
Diabetes Cure Research: Turning Duct Cells into Beta Cells by Katie Bacon
Right now, Bonner-Weir is trying to understand exactly how the progenitor cells change into beta cells, and how those cells then function. Once she understands that process, she explains, “We can take these cells and expand them massively so you could actually have enough cells to give back to a person.”
Even if Bonner-Weir’s lab is able to figure out how to grow the duct cells into mature beta cells, these new cells would then face sustained autoimmune attack. Researchers, including Bonner-Weir’s husband, Gordon C. Weir, are looking into ways to protect beta cells through protective capsules made of algenate—a form of seaweed—or some sort of polymer.
Much work remains to be done. Yet Bonner-Weir is optimistic about the promise of duct cells as a home-grown factory for new beta cells. “You can actually see the straight line between, Yes, if you knew how this cell became a beta cell you could see how possibly you could get a therapy for humans.” Read More