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INTRODUCTION

TYPE 1 DIABETES
TYPE 2 DIABETES
COMPLICATIONS
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
CURRENT RESEARCH


Health&Medicine Home

CURRENT RESEARCH

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation | Stem Cell Research Diabetes | Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness


At present no cure exists for diabetes, and scientists are unsure of the exact cause, although researchers are investigating a combination of genetic and environmental factors. So far researchers have identified 20 genes involved in Type 1 diabetes, and they are working to determine each geneís role in causing the disease. The inheritance patterns of Type 1 diabetes are complicated, with many different genes influencing a personís risk. For instance, a gene known as DR plays a role in Type 1 diabetes. Two forms of this gene, called DR3 and DR4, are present in 95 percent of people with Type 1 diabetes. People who inherit DR3 alone develop diabetes at an older age and have antibodies that destroy insulin-producing beta cells. Those who inherit DR4 tend to develop diabetes earlier in life and have antibodies that destroy insulin. A person with both DR3 and DR4 typically develops diabetes at a very young age and has the highest level of insulin-destroying antibodies (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stem Cell Research Diabetes, Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness).

In 2000 researchers were surprised to find that a variation of a gene called Caplain-10, which is not involved in glucose metabolism, is associated with the development of Type 2 diabetes. One form of this gene produces a small amount of protein, and researchers are studying how this decrease in protein increases a personís risk for diabetes. Other genetic studies indicate that certain genes cause a variation of Type 2 diabetes called maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY), which develops in people under the age of 25. Although scientists do not yet understand how these genes cause MODY, the genes are known to be active in the liver, intestine, kidney, and pancreas (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stem Cell Research Diabetes, Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness).

Other scientists hope to identify the environmental factors that trigger Type 1 diabetes in people with a genetic predisposition for the disease. If they can determine what causes the immune system to attack the cells that produce insulin, they may discover how to prevent the condition from developing. For instance, studies suggest that certain viruses, such as coxsackie B, rubella, and mumps, may trigger an immune reaction against beta cells or in some cases directly infect and destroy these cells (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stem Cell Research Diabetes, Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness).

Researchers attribute most cases of Type 2 diabetes to obesity. Studies show that the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases by 4 percent for every pound of excess weight a person carries. Researchers are investigating the exact role that extra weight plays in preventing the proper utilization of insulin and why some overweight people develop the disease while others do not (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stem Cell Research Diabetes, Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness).

Research also focuses on transplanting a healthy pancreas or its insulin-producing beta cells into a person with Type 1 diabetes to provide a natural source of insulin. Some patients who have received pancreas transplants have experienced considerable improvements in their health, but positive, long-term results with beta-cell transplants have not yet occurred. In both types of transplants recipients must take drugs that suppress their immune systems so the body will not reject the new pancreas or cells. These drugs can cause life-threatening side effects because the patientís body can no longer protect itself from other harmful substances. In most people with diabetes, these drugs pose a greater risk to health than living with diabetes. Scientists are also studying the development of an artificial pancreas and ways to genetically manipulate non-insulin-producing cells into making insulin (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stem Cell Research Diabetes, Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness).

New methods for accurately measuring blood glucose levels may improve the quality of life for many individuals with diabetes. New techniques include the use of laser beams and infrared technology. For example, a tiny computer using infrared light can be used to measure a personís blood sugar level. The computer automatically delivers the reading to an insulin pump carried on the diabeticís body that injects the appropriate amount of insulin (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stem Cell Research Diabetes, Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness).

Other advances include new drugs that control blood sugar. In April 2000 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved glargine, an insulin drug that needs to be injected only once a day. Sold under the brand name Lantus, this drug can be used by people with Type 1 diabetes, as well as by those with Type 2 diabetes who require insulin injections. A number of drugs have been developed to help people with Type 2 diabetes. Examples include acarbose, (sold under the brand name Precose), which controls blood sugar by slowing the digestion of carbohydrates, and metformin (sold under the brand name Glucophage), which controls liver production of sugar, causes weight loss, and reduces total cholesterol. In 2000 the FDA removed the drug troglitazone (sold under the brand name Rezulin) from the market. Although the drug enhances the ability of cells to use glucose, it was found to produce severe liver toxicity (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Stem Cell Research Diabetes, Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness).

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation | Stem Cell Research Diabetes | Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness



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Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation | Stem Cell Research Diabetes | Diabetes Foundation Research Wellness


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