Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Too Soon For a Cure

Have you heard the news? There is a cure for diabetes!

Well, sort of.


I fear this news will create a bit of false hope in diabetics, for several reasons.

First, because this didn't technically cure diabetes. Instead, it killed off the auto-immune response that triggers Type 1 diabetes. If your insulin-producing beta cells are already gone (such as mine have been for about 24 years now), you're out of luck. Instead, this treatment is more like preventing Type 1 diabetes by early intervention, and not quite a vaccine.

Second, the long term effects of the treatment are, at this point unknown. It is possible that the body will, once again, trigger its autoimmune response at some point in the future. It is too soon to know. It reminds me of the recent problems with the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine. The drug companies and government kind of rushed the vaccination out, and now, just a few years later, kids who were vaccinated, are developing chicken pox. Not only so, but the vaccination is delaying the onset of chicken pox enough that it could actually become more dangerous. Might this experimental diabetes treatment be the same? Might these kids live lives free from Type 1 diabetes, only to have more significant health problems later in life? We seem to forget that Type 1 diabetes is entirely treatable.

Third, the treatment itself is dangerous, and might not even work. Of the 15 kids who had the treatment, it only worked for 13 of them. So, for those two that it didn't work, they underwent significant health risks. Actually, those health risks applied to the other thirteen as well. It is a small sampling. But if this treatment were done on a larger scale, might we see serious harm or even death?

It seems to me that this is kind of like using a machete to slice up your strawberries. It is overkill (quite literally). Instead of targeting the cause of the disease itself, it is a "shoot anything that moves" mentality, figuring that, sure, you may kill a bunch of innocents, but, by golly, you got the fugitive in the process!

I'm skeptical. Can you tell? In the meantime, other treatments will still be necessary for the millions of other Type 1 diabetics who have already been diagnosed. It is too soon for a cure, folks. One more false hope.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I agree completely, especiall with your analogy of "shoot anything that moves" mentality, figuring that, sure, you may kill a bunch of innocents, but, by golly, you got the fugitive in the process.

But this study does solidify what many of us have been saying for years: a cure for type 1 diabetes is impossible unless the immune system is addressed, and maybe now, more research will finally go into the issue of autoimmunity rather than the fixation on ameliorating the symptoms of the condition itself that has dominated treatment for the past 85 years.