Health

Diabetes research gives hope to at-risk children

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The International Diabetes Federation Tuesday called on the United Nations to set new targets and invest in more research to halt a disease that's become an epidemic. Three hundred sixty-six million people have diabetes; one person dies from it, every "seven seconds. In the Bay Area, researchers are hoping to delay, or even prevent, diabetes among young patients. And for one family, the stakes are especially high.

Derek Talavera may have something in common with his brothers and sisters, but doctors at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital are hoping to change that.

"We're looking at him to see if we can prevent or delay the onset of Type 1 diabetes," Dr. Darrell Wilson said.

Derek's brother David and sister Maya both developed Type 1 diabetes as young children. With Type 1, the body's immune system attacks cells that produce insulin. Both David and Maya test their blood sugar regularly and control their levels with insulin injections.

"It's hard because sometimes there's different places where it really hurts, but I've gotten used to it over the years," Maya said.

But in a new trial at Lucile Packard, young patients like Derek, who don't yet show signs of the disease are being given a pill instead. While some receive a placebo, others get oral-insulin.

Researchers are hoping that by giving them the oral insulin, they may be able to slow the immune response -- potentially delaying full onset of the disease itself.

"That would be the home run. If we find a delay and not a permanent prevention, then at least we say we have a hit now and have a clue to what works," Wilson said.

The trial is focusing on young patients like Derek, who exhibit immune markers that predict Type 1 diabetes and who are considered at a higher risk for developing the disease.

Derek's 2-year-old sister Marrea also undergoes regular blood tests to asses her risk factors.

With four kids potentially facing the disease, their parents are hoping for a breakthrough.

"We're so fortunate to have the opportunity to maybe help protect them in their future health," mother Sasha Talavera said.

"If you can prevent that, be part of a study to prevent the disease, not only for Derek, but any child, that's why we're here," father David Talavera said.

Wilson is also conducting a separate trial, combining oral insulin with a drug therapy designed to help regulate autoimmune response.

Written and produced by Tim Didion

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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children, medical research, health, carolyn johnson
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