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The Search for the Treatment of Diabetes!

Talking Blood Glucose Meter

Talking Blood Glucose Meter

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Although Diabetes Mellitus was first described in an ancient Egyptian papyrus and the term used in ancient Greece in the second century AD, it was not until the 19th century that diabetes was linked with damaged pancreases found in early autopsies.  


Prior to the discovery of insulin and the synthization of insulin from animal and human pancreases, diabetics were unsuccessfully treated with pancreatic extracts, opium, extra sugar and near starvation. Pancreatic extract created in the 1910s had such severe side effects from contamination, their occasional success was discounted.  


Finally in 1922 the insulin molecule was isolated and purified to an extent that an American scientist, Macleod, announced the discovery of insulin. Some six years later insulin was identified as a protein. The purification process continued until 1960s when the first purified insulin was produced. Since that time rapid-acting and intermediate-to-long-acting insulin has been developed and in 1979, through modern DNA techniques, human insulin was produced.


As one of the most common health conditions worldwide and one that contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths per year in the United States alone, researchers continually strive to find a cure for Type 1 and 2 diabetes. There have been several promising developments in the last few years, including both surgical options as well as drug therapies.


One of the most promising new research programs developed includes the use of a combination of drugs that are known as anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody. This is actually a combination of drugs that can be provided at the early stages of Type 1 diabetes to preserve the islet cells in the pancreas and allow insulin production to continue. Research reviews by Dr. Kaufman and Dr. KC Herold of the Department of Immunobiology at Yale University showed very positive results in the use of the drug to maintain insulin production for two years after the development of the disease.


Long term ability to sustain insulin production is not yet researched, but the hope of researchers is to develop drug combination of the anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody to allow this type of protection to the body. It is hypothesized that healthy diet, exercise and ongoing blood glucose monitoring would also be essential in providing the body with the best possible option to utilize the available insulin. This treatment has only been tested with new onset, which means that the diagnosis must be made before a substantial part of the pancreas is destroyed or other complications associated with sustained high blood glucose levels become problematic.

The National Diabetes Association and the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse have also provided information about the breakthroughs that have been obtained with the possibility of a pancreatic islet transplant. In this operation, which is completed through organ donor programs, healthy islet cells are harvested from a deceased person that has indicated he or she wishes to be an organ donor. The cells are treated and purified and then implanted into the pancreas of a person with Type 1 diabetes. The cells begin to grow and develop where the non-functioning islet cells are currently located.


The University of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada has been a leader in this operation and procedure. Since 2000 there has been a longitudinal study of 65 transplant patients, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, which indicate that 10 percent were able to continue living without the need for insulin therapy. Several patients indicated that they needed insulin but at a reduced level and that problems with hypoglycemic were not as significant. The current research shows that the transplanted cells become less effective over time, but increasing efforts in sustaining these cells are showing positive results.


Increasing understanding of the digestive and metabolic process are also assisting those with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes in managing their blood glucose levels without the need for any type of insulin. This is very positive and ongoing research has also shown that many individuals that follow structured diets with a diagnosis of prediabetes are actually able to live without developing Type 2 diabetes or any associated health conditions.