A friend of mine left a great question at the end of my last post. I thought I'd post it here and give my fellow d-moms an opportunity to chime in and answer Josie's question.
"Good analogy. I've learned a lot from your blog. I do have a question though, so forgive me if it's an ignorant question. I just thought of it while reading this post. If curing T1 is as simple as a new pancreas (and I don't know if "simple" is quite the right word) couldn't they just cure it by doing a pancreas transplant or something? It seems like I saw an interesting episode on the history channel once about cloning and how they have some really advanced technology for replacing body parts. They have already used it for replacing urethra's and other such body parts. Do you know how close they are to finding some kind of cure for T1? Sorry it's long, I'm just curious if anyone is anywhere near curing this."
My response is, first, it is not an ignorant question. It's a very good question! My answer is this: the pancreas is responsible for many different things, not JUST producing insulin. In order to do a transplant there is a lot that must occur. A donor needs to be found, the body can't reject the transplant, there could be other factors as well. Often times a transplant isn't successful. Right now we have the ability to manage T1 and so to do a transplant could very well cause more problems in other parts of the endocrine system that are now working fine. It is pretty risky and not the best way to cure it. Besides that, to find a pancreas for every T1 person would involve lots of people having to pass away. It's kind of a catch 22 there. Plus, I don't know if this is a factor, but it is believed there is a genetic factor for the people who have T1. Then there is some kind of environmental trigger that tells the body to destroy the islet cells. We don't know why this happens. So, if there were a pancreatic transplant, whose to say the trigger might not cause this pancreas to lose it's ability to produce insulin? Generally speaking there needs to be more than just T1 that is affecting the pancreas in order to warrant a transplant.
As far as advancements in a cure. They have come a long way. They have done islet cell transplants--which are the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. All of that is in the beginning stages though. I am not even sure how they procured the islet cells. Stem cell research has showed promise. Animas (a pump company) teamed with JDRF this year to start developing the first fully functioning artificial pancreas. Those are all pretty cool things but still probably years and years away from getting to the point that they can be mass produced.
Of course, one thing I do worry about is politics. They play a part in everything. Sometimes I worry that pharmaceutical companies might try to "buy" the postponement of a cure. Type 1 Diabetes is a very, very expensive disease. The amount of money we have to spend to buy products to keep our kids alive is ridiculous...marked up I'm sure because it's a necessity. So, it makes sense, if a cure were found, these pharm companies would take a big hit. So, are they greedy enough to try and postpone a cure at the expense of my little girl? Well, I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't put it past them. I'm not sure how much, if any, that would play a part but it does cross my mind when I think about a cure.
So that is my answer...I hope it made sense. Maybe some of my other d-moms will have some better insights to help answer your question. Thanks again Josie!
4 days ago