Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Joys of Progress

The university where I currently conduct research (UT Southwestern Medical Center) recently released an article illustrating a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. This is a major breakthrough if the research continues its course! So type 1 diabetes occurs in individuals when certain white blood cells, also known as T cells, are triggered to attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Subsequently, the person develops a deficiency of insulin which leads to increased blood and urine glucose levels. This is fatal unless treated with insulin.. yikes.

Dr. Roger Unger, who is a professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study, suggested that the hormone glucagon can be suppressed to prevent the homeostatic imbalance in blood glucose level. Glucagon is produced by the pancreas and functions to lower blood sugar levels in healthy individuals. It causes high blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes. Okay, I get that. Essentially, they want to remove the functionality of glucagon so that diabetics will no longer need to inject or pump insulin. The sticky part of this finding is whether people can operate without the production or distribution of insulin in their bodies. I guess this is why the "cure" is still a working progress. All in all, I'm thrilled about this. Great work western medicine! :)

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