Healthy Living

New drug may put brakes on diabetes

Monday, August 10, 2009

As many as 3 million Americans are living with Type 1 diabetes. Doctors say having a sibling or parent with the condition increases your risk of developing it and managing it can mean four or more injections a day or wearing an insulin pump. But what if you could stop diabetes in the early stages before you need all of those needles? That's the goal behind a new experimental treatment. One teen is gambling on a drug in hopes of putting the brakes on his diabetes.

Seventeen-year-old Daniel Albright has Type 1 diabetes. He is 1 of 3 kids in the Albright family with it.

Since his siblings were diagnosed first, Daniel was monitored and doctors spotted signs of his diabetes early. Right now he's in a honeymoon period -- his body's still producing some insulin.

"We wanted to see what we can do to prevent it from getting worse, to stop it in it's tracks," said Donna Albright, Daniel's mom.

Daniel enrolled in a clinical trail to put the brakes on his diabetes. He gets monthly infusions of a rheumatoid arthritis drug called, Abatacept. The goal is to stop Daniel's immune system from killing the insulin-producing cells he has left.

"When you're first diagnosed with diabetes you probably have anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of your insulin producing cells still available and we'd like to freeze it there," said Dr. William Russell from Vanderbilt University.

In animals, the drug prevented full-blown diabetes from developing. In people, that would mean lower doses of insulin, easier blood sugar control and a lower risk of hypoglycemia, or dangerously low blood sugar.

"It's much easier to take care of diabetes when the patient themselves is making adequate amounts of insulin," said Dr. Russell.

After a couple of months of infusions, Daniel uses less insulin than his siblings, and doesn't need a pump.

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