This past Saturday the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation (DRIF), the premier organization seeking a cure for diabetes, had a one day conference in Manhattan that I attended. The day consisted of presentations and workshops providing an overview of research findings on islet cell transplantation and regeneration, and tools and treatments and psychosocial support for living with type 1 diabetes.
While some of the morning's scientific talk admittedly went over my head, and no one's promising a cure anytime soon, I know those of us with type 1 are in a better place than we've ever been before and closer to the brass ring. I particularly enjoyed an informative lunch moderated by Amy Tenderich, award-winning blogger of DiabetesMine. On the panel of experts were Dr. Jay Skyler, researcher and Dr. Norma Kenyon, research scientist both with DRIF, Wendy Satin Rapaport, clinical psychologist who works with the DRIF and University of Miami, Fran Carpentier, editor of Parade magazine and type 1 diabetic for 39 years and Jeff Hitchcock, father of a daughter with type 1 diabetes and founder of Children with Diabetes, an online community for young people and families.
Beside the camaraderie of the day, including meeting my wonderful lunch buddy, a grandmother from Albany, here are a few tidbits I took away.
While progress in curing diabetes has not yet visibly translated into any giant leaps, the details behind the scenes have progressed enormously, like how we get islet cells to last longer without immunosuppression drugs. Research, techniques and discoveries are progressing speedily, but the stage from what's found in the lab to works in a mice to gets tested in humans is not speedy.
Islet cell transplantation is also making progress but major obstacles include: 1) not enough cells available 2) immune rejection. Scientists are now harvesting other cells, like liver cells, and turning them into islet cells. This is showing early success.
In trials, those using continuous glucose monitors over the age of 25 improved their A1C on average by .53%. Doesn't sound like much, does it, but it translates into a drop in A1C from, for instance, 7.4% to 6.9%. Those between the ages of 15 and 24 showed relatively no improvement. No surprise, largely because only 33% of participants in the trial actually wore the darn thing most of the time.
An artificial pancreas is very near. The technology is there and much of what's needed now are safety protections: putting alarms and breakers in the system, preventing malfunctions and safely letting patients go home with the system making sure they won't administer too much insulin.
The self-care diabetes demands is NOT easy and lapses are not failures. Life gets in the way. Set achievable goals and if you lapse, don't blame yourself, use it as information and continue forward.
Hope for a bright outcome, not only does it feel good, but it changes your immune system for the better.
"Choose" to live well with diabetes. If you don't do something well you'll quit doing it altogether.
Expect, but don't fear burn-out.
Expect your teen with diabetes to swing like a seesaw between adult and child-like behavior. Don't accost them with, "What's your number?" every time they walk in the house. Talk about normal things before diabetes.
To learn more about the conference, click here. And don't forget, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of my book, The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes, is being donated to DRIF at the end of the year. Your purchase will make a difference.