Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Everyone wants a cure for diabetes. Or do they? Some people think so much money is made from “treating” diabetes that nobody in power really wants to “cure” it. Is there any truth to this? Could there be a cure?

I’m not sure it’s possible to find a cure for something without knowing what causes it or how it works. At least in the case of Type 1, we have a general idea. The immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells and destroys them.

For this reason, Type 1 is called an “autoimmune” disease, although nobody seems to know exactly what that means. We don’t know why beta cells come under attack, but environmental exposure to something — a food, a virus, a chemical — seems to set the process off.

According to JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), to cure Type 1, we would have to turn off the immune system attack, or somehow protect beta cells from the immune system. Then we would need to find a way to restore new, functioning beta cells. These cells could perhaps be grown from other remaining healthy cells in the pancreas, or they could be manufactured in a lab or obtained from another animal and put into the body.

If this all sounds extremely difficult, it is. Until now, no autoimmune disease has been cured. But perhaps it is possible. University of Colorado researchers say they have cured the condition in mice. They created a peptide that stops the immune system’s T-cells from attacking the beta cells.

One researcher, Dr. David Wagner, said the effect could be huge, if it works in humans. The drug is effective at both preventing the mice from developing diabetes as well as reversing the effects of diabetes in mice that already have the condition. These effects “last for as long as we administer the drug,” Wagner noted.

JDRF is certainly looking for a Type 1 cure. They fund research on protecting the pancreas and also research on Type 1 prevention, which they call “the most cost-effective cure.” They have a sophisticated fundraising program.

Unfortunately, Type 2 is more complicated and less well understood. As with Type 1, the causes are probably genetic and environmental, but we don’t know exactly what they are.

The process of Type 2 is also poorly understood. There can be problems in the pancreas, the liver, or the intestines. Besides insulin defects, there may also be problems with glucagon, which tells the liver to pump glucose into the blood. Glucagon problems one of the issues the drug metformin is supposed to control, but it doesn’t always work.

Other hormones including amylin, ghrelin, leptin, and incretins also affect glucose and can go wrong. Glands that are supposed to tell the pancreas to produce insulin may not be working. Muscle cells may stop producing proteins needed for insulin to get glucose into cells.

With all these possible targets for treatment, it’s not surprising that drug companies are pursuing Type 2 with all they’ve got. In 2010, 25.6 million people age 20 or older had diabetes in the US alone, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearing House (NDIC). Roughly 95% of them had Type 2, so Type 2 drugs have a huge potential market.

New drugs and whole new categories of diabetes drugs are developed all the time. The incretin drugs seem to remedy the intestines’ failure to signal the pancreas to produce insulin. Metformin and others try to keep the liver and glucagon under control. Sulfonylureas and meglitinides tell the pancreas to produce more insulin.

Others like the thiazolidinediones work on the muscles and other cells to get them to cooperate with insulin and take in more glucose. And there are other categories of glucose-lowering drugs, over ten in all.

People with Type 2 often have problems with lipids (fats) and blood pressure as well, so there are a dozen ways to “treat” or “control” Type 2 with drugs, but none of them come close to a cure. The cost of these drugs is over $14 billion a year in the US, and rising.

In America, we have been raised to think there is a pharmacological cure for everything. But because Type 2 diabetes is so complex, damaging so many body processes, I think it’s highly unlikely such a medical cure will ever be found. If there is such a medicine, it would most likely cause other problems that could be even worse.

That doesn’t mean there’s no possible cure; just that it won’t be a drug. I wrote here in June about the thousands of people who have “reversed” their Type 2, getting off all medicines, mostly with self-management measures. We have read that bariatric surgery and very-low-calorie diets often seem to cure Type 2 in a matter of days or weeks, at least temporarily.

Unfortunately, the research looking for cures or treatments is contaminated by the larger goal of making money. Surgeons profit from bariatric surgery, drug companies from drugs, equipment makers from needles and glucose strips, but nobody except people with diabetes profits from effective self-management. And we don’t have a lot of money to fund studies or research better methods.

What do you think? Is there a cure? Why aren’t more people looking?

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Comments
  1. Drug companies certainly don’t have an incentive to produce a cure (they make no money from that). Professional athletes have an incentive to win at any cost.

    There is no cure for Type 1 (yet), but a lot of people are working on aspects of it. I think for now we need to focus on better self-management tools.

    I have created such a tool (free), which provides the features of a pump, but without the pump. It also predicts BGLs 2-3 hours ahead. Please give it a try! http://www.ManageBGL.com.

    Posted by Simon Carter |
  2. David:

    I believe you have done a great thorough job in worn mocassins walking across broken glass all over the terrain and around the full ballpark.

    The review of Type 1 and type 2 diabetes and efforts and thinking I believe are good summaries.

    I believe progress in type 1 land is due to fact we better understand the issues and complications better and more clearly.

    Type 2 has been an orphan in this process and while using type 1 theory and cure approaches as an appropriate starting point/leaping off point, the understanding of the body and how glucose is stored, distributed, consumed through the skeletal muscles, fat tissues and liver storage and control is badly limited, not really understood, nor impact of throwing insulin and drugs against the problem.

    From my perspectrive; how do the skeletal muscles/fat cells prevent themselves getting poisoned from too much glucose always available in Blood?

    Current thinking seems trapped on the issue if too much glucose, throw insulin at that and failing that get the floor jacks of actos to push it in harder.

    I do not think there is any conspiracy, but the “diabetes community does seem locked on wrong target” like a heat seeking missile as the numbers of type 2 escalate even higher in our land of 24/7 availability of excess sugars, improved grains, rice and corns and reduced physical energy and couch potato tools, entertainment, cars, appliances thrown against an ancient lightly modified or unmodified gene set of the ole hunter gatherer gene digestion set.

    I am curious if any computer simulations have been done looking at the interaction of the gut - food generation of glucose followed by the liver and its buffer followed by the buffers of the skeletal muscle cells and fat cells and their glucose storage ( I have seen comments that the storage of the muscle and fat cells has 10 times the capability of the liver). Then one could vary the food input and amounts of glucose generated and how the liver and other buffers perform and if they get to saturation.

    The Insulin process is only a part of process and if one does not know what is going on in this critical back half of the buffers and skeletal muscles and fat cells; trying to solve type 2 is hopeless in my mind.

    Posted by jim snell |
  3. I,m blood group A and am diabetic. I would like to know what kind of foods will suit a blood group A person when he/she wants to lower the blood pressure and the sugar levels in his/her body.

    Posted by Davi Sibondza |
  4. what is going on with stem cell therapy with diabetes

    Posted by maryann kelly |
  5. I do believe that the state of medical research aimed at actually curing anything is a disaster. There just isn’t any money in curing a disease. It’s all in maintaining the patient for the long haul, forstalling actual death as long as possible, but certainly not curing the disease. I mean, why would anyone kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
    The only entity who should care other than the patient is the Federal Government. $14 bil a year on diabetes. Why wouldn’t you spend that much to cure it? The Fed has to offer more money to the researchers than the private sector big pharma guys does. Same with other cronic diseased that are raising our health care costs into the stratosphere. THEY (the healthcare industry) will not do it, WE (the government) must. However, I also believe that lobbying efforts by those who enjoy the financial benefits of this debacle will prevent that.
    I suffer from Type II, hypertension, obesity, cronic liver disease, insomnia, and tinitius. Otherwise known as Metabolic Syndrome X.
    The medical community has the same answer for all these diseases: we don’t know what causes it, there is no cure, eat less and exercise, it’s your own damn fault dummy, here’s the bill.
    Well I eat less than 1,800 caloroes a day, fewer than 120 carbs a day, take all my prescribed medications on schedule, stopped all alcohol consumption a year ago, and get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 3-4 days a week. Still got everything I had before. Maybe the numbers are a bit better.
    Could it all be the very long term effects of some food or water additive approved long ago? Interesting to look at the CDC stats on number of newly reported cases of type II. It plugs along at a low steady pace until 1974. Then suddenly starts on a linear upward slope that continues until today. Were there no fat people before 1974? Did everybody suddenly stop exercising in 1974? I swear I never remember my dad, mom, aunts, uncles exercising… ever. They all drank like fish. No one had diabetes. Only a few developed alcoholic liver disease. Now, 15% of the populatin is diagnosed and another 15% have it and don’t know it. Really? What suddenly happened in 1974?
    At 63, I was looking forward to enjoying an occasional nice meal and a few drinks with my buddies now and then as I slide into retirement oblivion. It’s ruined everything in life I used to enjoy, why not just die and get it over with.
    If anyone has the time and journalistic investigate capabilities I would like to get an inquiry started into the following. We frequently hear about a diabetes “breakthrough” with the promise of a cure within a few years. Then the docs who discover it simply fade into oblivion. Where do they go? What happened to their idea? Did it suffer from lack of funding? Was the doc’s attention diverted to a more lucrative endeavor by a potential loser in this game? Were they wrongly discredited by an industry backed spin campaign? They can’t all be losers.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to find out this is all a hoax, put an end to it, and finally develop an actual cure for what ailes us. Where’s Dr. Salk when you need him. Dr Salk, paging Dr Salk!
    Signed,
    Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    Posted by Ken Doerbecker |
  6. Most of these comments have hit the nail on the head as far as anyone producing a cure, no money in it!
    I have been diabetic (type 2) since diagnosed in 1994. I am now 71 and for the first time in 18 years I am off of all medications.
    When diagnosed I was told it was hereditary and I would be on meds the rest of my life. I was at 240 lb, had high b/p and cholesterol was sky high. I worked at reducing my weight and get exercise but still had little control over my diabetes, b/p etc.
    Last November I discovered a change in lifestyle that changed my life and my health. At that time I was down to 189 lb but still taking the maximum dose of Lantus along with the Max dose ofMetformin with an A1C of 7.4.
    Now I am at 155, b/p is 60/90 and cholesterol at 146′ simply from changing my lifestyle.
    This lifestyle is called the alkaline diet. It is based on the premises that acidic foods of our S.A.D (Sad American Diet) contribute if not cause all of our health problems. I have a list of foods that tells me how any food affects the alkaline/acidicy of our body. All I have to do is eat 80% of my foods from the alkaline side of the list and my body will not have to rid itself of excess acidity. This excess acidity is stored in the fat in my body to protect the body and if the bod y has to rid itself of excess acidity it chelts vital minerals and vitamins from our bones,organs nd blood.
    I do not count carbs, eat no salty or processed foods, just natural fresh or raw fruits veggies along with 1 serving of meat a day. I eat no processed grains, no canned fruits or veggies and no sugar or artificial sweeteners. We use only stevia as a sweetener.
    By eating this way we consume no salt but do add ample mined sea salts.
    On this diet we check our urine ph on a meter and it should be close to 7.2. Twice a week we check our saliva ph with ph strips and it should be also close to 7.2. Simply following this diet I am off ALL meds and my insulin resistance is slowly being reduced. Hopefully this coming year I can declare myself cured.
    There is a cure and it is right in front of us all. Big pharmacy will never give a cure to us cause they and the doctors would go broke. Google the Ph Diet and read on it. Your doctor will tell you “it hasn’t been proven”. Well, my answer to this is”if it doesn’t work prove it” All my bad health is gone. My last two blood profiles have come back normal is All things . My last A1C was 6.0

    Posted by Dan Kashefska |
  7. THE CURE IS KNOWN FOR TYPE 2

    For type 2 diabetes the underlying cause is something called intramyocellular lipid, that is fat that gets into the muscles and stops insulin from working. By going vegan certain people have reversed type 2 diabetes in as little as 10 days.

    If you have type 2 diabetes try every other day having no animal products for a couple of weeks. Monitor your blood glucose carefully as your numbers will get better. Then on the days you have animal products reduce the quantity by a quarter each day every fortnightband watch your blood sugar levels improve significantly. Maintain low oil in diet - do this and your diabetes will improve and go away quickly. Be mindful you might have to ask dr about coming off meds if your blood glucose improves and have a sugary snack on your person in case your blood sugar drops more than it should with medicines. If you feel dizzy then it’s possibly detox. Reintroduce a small amount of animal protein eg eggs or fish back and it should go away quickly.

    Posted by The cure |

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Type 2 Diabetes
FDA Approves Weekly Type 2 Diabetes Medicine (04/18/14)
Study on Factors Influencing Type 2 Management (04/15/14)
What's Your Diabetes "Type"? Gestational, MODY, and Steroid-Induced (04/15/14)
Overweight People With Type 2 May Benefit From Gastric Banding (04/11/14)

Type 1 Diabetes
Researcher Seeks Type 1 Diagnosis Experiences (04/14/14)
What's Your Diabetes "Type"? Gestational, MODY, and Steroid-Induced (04/15/14)
"Get Diabetes Right" Initiative (04/07/14)
Study to Evaluate Needle-Free Glucagon Treatment (04/09/14)

Diabetes Research
Overweight People With Type 2 May Benefit From Gastric Banding (04/11/14)
Good News About Good Diabetes Self-Management (03/28/14)
Diabetes Developed at Midlife May Affect Brain Function in Old Age (03/21/14)
Many Americans Taking Meds That Work Against Each Other (03/14/14)

 

 

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