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  • Writer's picture Bowie Matteson

Where We are Missing the Mark

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Most anything you look up today on the outlook for Type I diabetes treatment points to replacement therapy, either via stem cells or organ transplant, or improved external technologies, like pumps, glucose sensors and improved insulin substrates.

When I was first diagnosed in 2001, my diabetic educator was incredibly enthusiastic about the outlook for Type I diabetics. She told me something along the lines of “You’ve picked just the right time to get this! There is so much being learned about diabetes and it’s going to lead to a much better life for you”. Talk about rallying the troops! I was so encouraged.

At the time, stem cells were the new hot button prospect. The idea of growing and replacing what the body had taken away was a neat idea. And that idea has largely stuck. As recent as Nov. 2021, a man from Ohio has had his Type I cured by stem cell therapy. No more shots, no more finger pricks, just a normal life with implanted, functioning beta cells.

I’m hesitantly optimistic yet slightly suspicious. I worry that not understanding the true origin of the development of the disease itself will lead to it happening all over again. What makes the new beta cells impervious to the same bodily state that caused the cells to cease in the first place?

This is where I call into the question the true nature of the focus when approaching Type I diabetes. There is a timeline in the lives of every diabetic. Most (not all) are born without the disease. They have functioning immune systems that keep them well, and functioning guts that help fuel growth and development.

Then something happens.

The beta cells sputter as they slowly lose their function (i.e. the honeymoon phase where the beta cells still produce some insulin but not enough to effectively regulate your blood sugar). Eventually they completely lose their function. Most diabetics are diagnosed in their honeymoon phase. After that is the game of symptom management with exogenous insulin, pumps and blood glucose monitoring.

The entire research and development field within the diabetic community seems to only operate in the post diabetic field. Any article you find on diabetes treatment covers the entire period of not being diabetic and then becoming one as only being worth a small paragraph…

“The cause of Type I diabetes is unknown”

“Your beta cells are destroyed”

“It’s unclear what causes the destruction of the beta cells”

And then the remainder of the article is focused on transplanting, supplementing or fortifying a new set of cells.

Have you ever thought about what was happening before you developed Type I? What are your theories as to why you got it?

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