Could a pill a day keep diabetes away?
Researchers look for the answer
September 10, 1996
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jeff Levine
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For every parent with diabetes,
there is a child who may be at risk for developing the
disease, a fact that Jane Turek knows only too well.
She herself has Type I diabetes. When blood tests
revealed that her seven-year-old son Ben is also at
risk for the disease, she was devastated.
"Naturally, you feel guilty. I mean, I have diabetes,
so I tend to blame myself, even though I know,
logically and rationally, it's not just me," Turek, a
diabetes educator, said.
Her illness requires her to take insulin injections
and watch her health closely for complications. Her
son Ben, whose blood test showed antibodies that could
destroy insulin-producing cells, is participating in a
National Institutes of Health study that might mean he
never has to.
It's estimated that every year in the United States,
some 13,000 children and teen-agers will be diagnosed
with Type I diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes
because most of the people who develop it are young.
Type I diabetics don't produce insulin, which the body
needs to digest foods properly. Patients need insulin
injections to survive, and risk complications that can
lead to blindness, heart disease, and kidney failure.
The idea behind the NIH study is to see if the disease
can be prevented by giving insulin to those at risk.
"I don't think that's too much to hope. I think this
is the first step that moves us in that direction,"
said Dr. Jay Skyler of the University of Miami, one of
the institutions participating in the nationwide,
Altogether, 10 medical centers across the country will
follow 830 children and adults whose blood contains
antibodies for Type I diabetes. Those with a greater
than 50 percent risk get insulin shots; individuals
with a 25 to 50 percent chance will get an insulin
"Even if we delay the disease by a number of years,
you delay the impact of accumulating glucose load,
creating the complications," Skyler said.
The question is, can an insulin capsule a day stave
off the ravages of diabetes? "We don't know for sure
if that's true, but you're so hopeful, you just assume
that that's the answer," diabetes patient Turek says.
The U.S. government says if the study proves out the
theory, then the $30 million spent on the study is a
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