Posts Tagged pancreas


Posted by on Friday, 9 August, 2013

Happy pancreas


Sometimes my job sucks.

Occasionally, I hear from readers who say they’re sick.  “Science,” they say, “pah! Who CARES about ‘fascinating’ papers by science geeks ? I need a cure. Not a rat model.”

And- you know what? –  MISTER ScienceAintSoBad gets it.  He does. He knows “interesting” has to take a back seat to “it’s killin’ me.” How often do I find you a nice little pill to cure cancer? I don’t even have anything much for diarrhea.  I read through all kinds of crap about “breakthroughs”. Hah! Some breakthroughs! The mice feel better.  For humans? We’ll get back to you on that.

What a job!

Could be things are getting better. My last article, Alzheimer’s, Things Are Starting To Look Good, had little glitter balls of hope stuck all over it. And now  something about type 1 diabetes that could please you and add to my own optimism about less sick people to drag down Obamacare.  Seriously! It could happen faster than anyone thinks.

The Type 1 vs Type 2 thing

The thing about type 1 is that you can’t make insulin. The cells in the pancreas that  do this job get destroyed by the immune system  Without insulin your blood sugar climbs. If you don’t get yourself stabilized with supplementary insulin,  you won’t last. Even if you are a very good patient, you may have to work very hard at keeping your sugar level in a good range. If you are  lucky you may avoid some of the crappy complications but it won’t be easy. Type 2 usually comes on later in life and is because your body loses its ability to efficiently use the insulin that it produces. It’s not a lack of insulin; just can’t seem to use the stuff right. You wind up needing extra. You don’t want either type of diabetes but individuals with  type 1  often have a tougher challenge.  

What I saw was published in the journal Diabetes. (Dr. Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD and Dr. A.W. and Mary Clausen).  It’s about a drug called teplizumab which, in a very sophisticated way, keeps T-cells (the business end of the immune system) from going after the insulin producing cells on the pancreas. The strength of the results even surprised the scientists conducting the study; they were  “very excited by the efficacy”.


Well, here’s the thing. This IS exciting. (That’s what they said in the press release, right?) Great news. BUT these are only phase II trials on 52 kids under 15 years old. Half the kids did great. That’s why so much excitement. But what about the other kids? They didn’t do as well. The study says this might be because it works best where the insulin producing cells are still in fairly good shape. In other words,  where the disease hasn’t been active that long. But, come ON! These were teenagers with newly diagnosed disease. Obviously this part needs to be cleared up. Still. Such great results do justify moving right along to phase III. Great potential here.

By the way, this isn’t the only hope. There’s other research attacking the disease from other directions. That’s good. We don’t want to kick people under the bus just because they’ve been sick for a long time.

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Image credits: That’s mine.

An Artificial Pancreas For Diabetes: Still In The Works

Posted by on Tuesday, 9 February, 2010

THAT'S one. (A pancreas.)

image from Creative Commons

Medicine: Type 1 Diabetes.

An artificial pancreas really is just over SOME horizon now. An announcement from Cambridge (article in the Lancet) describes the fine work of Dr Roman Hovorka at the University of Cambridge, working with a group of seventeen diabetic kids.

A cure for diabetes would be nice, of course. And there are some intriguing hints but, for now, an artificial pancreas would be stunning enough.

If it works out (and if it is widely accepted), this development has the potential to greatly reduce the complications of the disease, ease peoples’ lives, and reduce health care costs significantly (Wouldn’t THAT be nice?).

Back to which horizon this is over.

It’s hard for MISTER ScienceAintSoBad to say this but, once again, this is only a tantalizing possibility of something that is badly needed. We ARE a lot closer, thanks to the great work being done. Maybe as little are three, four or five years.

Karen Addington (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) says this is a “proof of principle” and that we “need to redouble our efforts.”

I’m not sure that’s what we want to hear. But reality IS so darn real, isn’t it?

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 9

– – – – – – – – – Postscript – – – – – – – – –

Karen Addington was nice enough (and ubiquitous enough) to leave a comment which I am duplicating below since it addresses the question of when this device might really hit the road. Notice that her motivation is personal.

Her comment:

Thanks for picking up on this new research.

We know that developments like the artificial pancrease can’t come quickly enough for people living with type 1 diabetes, and their families. That’s why we’re working really hard to make sure that the artificial pancreas becomes a reality as soon as possible. In January my colleagues at JDRF International (based in the USA) announced a partnership with Animas (a Johnson & Johnson company that manufactures pumps) to develop a first generation artificial pancreas.

The goal is to develop a system that can prevent the extremes of both hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia automatically – but will still need some input from the wearer, such as informing the system of meal times and periods of exercise.

This partnership is planned for four years and by the end we hope to reach the point where it will ready to go forward for approval by regulatory bodies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), and from there to people with type 1.

I have had type 1 diabetes for 30 years, and I’m really excited about what this research could soon mean for me, and everyone else with type 1.