Category: Discovery of Insulin

Dr Faustman’s vaccine for Type 1 Diabetes

They say, that there is a vaccine that can not only halt type 1 diabetes in its tracks but also that it has the ability to reverse the condition.

When I first read about this vaccine, it really did sound too good to be true. Could it be the cure we’ve all been waiting for? Or, is this yet another diabetes research breakthrough which amounts to nothing? This vaccine has been depicted as a “promising vaccine”, an “ideal vaccine”, a truly effective treatment.

But what is this vaccine and does it, will it really work for someone like me?

This vaccine, would you believe, has actually been around since the 1920’s. It was first cultured by Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin at the Pasteur Institute in Lille, France.The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin otherwise known as (BCG) vaccine has been used to cure Tuberculosis and Bladder cancer and has been very successful.

It has been used in trials ( in both mice and humans) to show its impact on Type 1 diabetes, with positive results so far. The research is being carried out by Dr Denise Faustman, MD, PhD and her main focus is to carry out trials on individuals who have had diabetes for five years or more. She has targeted adults between the ages of 18 to 60 to determine how effective this vaccine will be in reversing type 1 diabetes.

Associate Professor of Medicine Denise Faustman is conducting a study of a decades-old TB drug that reversed diabetes in mice and has shown promising results in an initial human study. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

To understand why this vaccine was chosen, we must first consider how Type 1 diabetes occurs in an individual.

We live in a world full of germs, viruses, bacteria and toxins (invaders). The immune system plays a huge role in protecting us from these possible harmful microbes. When harmful invaders try to infect us, the immune system is able to first sense the presence of these invaders and then it is able to destroy any foreign cells.

With Type 1 diabetes, the immune system confuses its own cells as foreign cells.  Attacking and destroying healthy beta cells. This is known as autoimmunity or self-attack! Type 1 diabetes is then, in fact, an autoimmune disease and NO it’s not caused by eating too much sugar. It’s so much more complex than that.

So what role does the BCG vaccine play?

The BCG vaccine would possibly be able to halt or reverse the beta cell deterioration in individuals who have the condition. It would conceivably reduce the amount of insulin needed or remove the need for insulin completely.

The way in which vaccines usually work are, a less potent version of the vaccine is injected into you and it allows the immune system to build up immunity against potentially threatening viruses. In a sense, your body becomes stronger and more capable of dealing with any bigger potential threats.

With Type 1 diabetes, the immune system produces antibodies which are capable of killing off beta cells. The vaccination would be used to encourage the immune system to see the beta cells as no longer being harmful which will then allow cells to grow and repair whilst avoiding a decline in beta cells. Hence a healthy production of beta cells like a non-diabetic individual.

Type 1 diabetics are deficient in the hormone TNF (Tumour Necrosis Factor) which is able to produce good T-cells and reduce the presence of bad T-cells. These bad T-cells are responsible for encouraging the immune system to terminate healthy beta cells. The BCG vaccine would be able to increase levels of the TNF hormone whilst potentially removing bad T-cells.

During the trials BCG doses were administered to patients which resulted in an increase in TNF levels, removing bad T-cells which will then allow the immune system to function as it would in a person without diabetes.

Dr Faustman has said, “BCG is definitely modulating the immune system.”

This is only the beginning and there is still a lot that has to be researched. I have so many questions:

– What dosage would be required to make the reversal process successful?

– Would it really be permanent?

– Would I have to have continuous vaccinations and how frequently would this need to happen?

– Would I still partially need to take any insulin?

– What would the long-term effects of taking the BCG vaccinations be?

As someone who keeps up to date with all the diabetes research and advances in diabetes. I must say that this one does sound very promising. However,  I remain sceptical because you must understand that there are so frequently many different research projects surrounding diabetes which have been labelled the possible next cure for Type 1.

Even still, I remain hopeful, I remain positive that one day one of these research projects will succeed and finally bring to light the cure we’ve all dreamt of. We’ve come such a long way from the times when having diabetes was an automatic death sentence. Without the discovery of insulin, and the endless hours of research executed by Dr Frederick Banting, where would we be today?

I won’t give up on that cure! I continue to pray that, one day it will come. As they say, “Nothing worth having comes easily” 

I will definitely keep following the progress of this vaccine and hopefully, I’ll have something great report when they next showcase their research findings.

Amina xxx

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Talk about your medicines month

This month of October marks the calendar as “Talk About Your Medicines” month. The American Recall Center invited me to talk about the medicine I use. I hope that this will help to spread further awareness for diabetes.

What’s my medicine?

My Medicine is Insulin. Insulin is a hormone which is produced in the pancreas.
As a type 1 diabetic, I am unable to produce insulin and must administer a synthetic engineered form into my body. It is essential that I inject insulin into my body on a daily basis. I greatly depend on it and it is vital for my survival.

“I am insulin dependent.”

My insulin therapy started over 20 years ago now and it will be with me for the rest of my life. You may or may not have gathered yet but insulin is not a cure for diabetes. As Dr F Banting once said, “Insulin is not a cure for diabetes; it is a treatment. It enables the diabetic to burn sufficient carbohydrates, so that proteins and fats may be added to the diet in sufficient quantities to provide energy for the economic burdens of life.”

Having this chronic disease means that I have no choice but to take this medicine if I want to live a healthy lifestyle. It allows me to live in general. Without it I would be extremely ill and my day to day functions would be limited.

When I was first diagnosed, without my natural insulin production, it took a matter of a week before I became a skeleton. I was weak, constantly consuming what seemed to be gallons of water and daily living became a struggle. The lack of insulin in my body meant that I couldn’t function well. “I was wasting away!”

Starting my insulin therapy impacted me greatly. I had to learn to accept it and trust that this medicine would help me be well again and allow me to be myself again. It was a big change in my life, but remembering the feeling of sickness I had felt before my diagnosis, made me want to be healthy and normal again.

How do you remember to take your medicine?
Remembering to take my medicine can be difficult at times. However after 20 years of living with this condition, there really is no room for forgetting to take your insulin. I’ve made it a priority and it has become a part of my daily routine. Having to calculate carbohydrates I consume forces me to remember to take my insulin. I won’t lie, I have on occasion forgotten to take my insulin. However, I usually remember during my first few bites of a meal and quickly give myself a bolus(dose of insulin). It really isn’t an easy job at all. It’s constant, everyday, night and day. You can’t really escape it or say, “Ok I’ve had enough” or, “oh no! I skipped that dose. Never mind I’ll take another dose tomorrow.” It just doesn’t work like that.

Where do I go for medical support?
For medical support I usually attend a Diabetes clinic. If I have any concerns I tend to reach out to the clinic and also to my GP. I am free to make contact with them during the week. Nevertheless, medical support during the weekend is limited to going to the hospital.

Advice for others
As a newly diagnosed patient about to start a course of insulin therapy. My advice to you is to remember, diabetes and insulin therapy is an enormous and daunting prospect to come to terms with. The concept that you will have to take this medicine for the rest of your life is a lot to contend with. Accepting that this is now your fate, is key to maintaining and managing your diabetes. You must make it your business to learn as much as you can about this condition and its treatment if you want to live a healthy life.
Take it step by step and try to do the basics, e.g. taking your insulin before meals, testing your blood glucose levels and taking note of what your levels are at certain times. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, consult your doctors about the insulin therapy your about to commence. Something that really helped me was to connect with other diabetics both newly diagnosed and diabetics who had been living with the condition for years.

What drug interactions must you be aware of?
When I was first diagnosed I had no idea about different drugs interacting with my insulin. It wasn’t till later in my diabetes life, that I began to understand that there are many drugs which in fact can interact with insulin, drugs such as Aspirin, oral contraceptives, anabolic steroids, thyroid medication and many more. Consulting with your GP is the best thing to do. They will be able to tell you exactly what drugs can interact with the type of insulin you are taking.

The risks and benefits of taking insulin?
The major risks involved in taking insulin are taking too much or too little. This can have a severe effect on your blood glucose levels and can cause hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. Taking the correct dosage is very important.
The benefits of taking my insulin is that I am healthy. Even though I am dependant on it, without it I wouldn’t have been able to achieve many things in my life thus far. Would I be the adult that I am now without it? In all honestly I don’t think I would be the strong, determined individual I am today. This medicine has been instrumental in helping me face my condition. Without my insulin I would not have been around to encounter all of life’s challenges.

What do you wish you knew before taking insulin?
I wish at the time of my diagnosis I knew more about insulin and how it worked. Also I wish I had a better understanding of how soon my insulin/s peaked.

Taking you medicine is crucial when you are a diabetic. However, it is also very important to know more about the medicine you are taking. Don’t take it blindly without knowing more about it and how it will affect you. Being a diabetic is extremely arduous but try to stay positive, be patient, stay determined, reach out to others when you need the support and most of all remember to take your insulin.

Amina xx

World Diabetes Day – Insulin discovery

© Mary Evans Picture Library / SZ Photo / Scherl

© Mary Evans Picture Library / SZ Photo / Scherl

Since I come from a science background. I thought that this year for World diabetes day I would concentrate on one of the major breakthrough’s in diabetes. The breakthrough which stands out in my mind and is very close to my heart is the discovery of insulin by Dr Frederick Banting and Charles Best. Without this life changing discovery, let’s put it this way I probably wouldn’t be here today. I wanted to show my appreciation and write a post dedicated to these men.

Frederick Banting was a Canadian scientist, born on 14 November (World Diabetes Day) 1891 in Alliston, Ontario. His list of achievements stacks up high. In 1916, he received an M.B degree and was able to join the Canadian Army Medical Corps during World War 1. During the war, besides being wounded badly, he continued to help the sick and injured.

When the war ended in 1919 he returned to Canada and was awarded the Military Cross. He also became a medical practitioner for a short time. Until he returned to Toronto to study orthopaedic medicine.

1919-1920, he was resident surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. He did this whilst continuing his general practice, teaching orthopaedics and anthropology part-time at the University of Western Ontario in London.

*The Insulin breakthrough*

In 1923, Frederick Banting along with his assistant Charles Best discovered how to extract insulin so that it could be used on patients suffering from severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If you aren’t aware of the research you can have a look at the step by step documentation of the research carried out on http://link.library.utoronto.ca/insulin/timeline-frames.html

Dr Frederick Banting was presented with a Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1923 along with Dr. JRR MacLeod, Professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto.  His assistant and co-founder of insulin “Charles Best” was not recognised for the hard work he had contributed in the research. Dr. F Banting decided that he would share his award money with Best. According to the Nobel Prize,” as of September 2011, Banting, who received the Nobel Prize at age 32, remains the youngest Nobel laureate in the area of Physiology/Medicine.”

The Canadian government gave Banting a lifetime annuity to work on his research. Banting married Marion Robertson in 1924; they had one child, William (b. 1928). This marriage ended in a divorce in 1932. He was then knighted by King George the V in 1934 and became Sir Frederick Banting.

Banting and Best went on to work at the Banting and Best institute in the University of Toronto. Today this institute is known as the BBDMR. Dr. F Banting went on to work on other aspects of research such as, silicosis, cancer, and the mechanism of drowning and how to counteract it. In 1937 Banting married Henrietta Ball.

Dr F Banting reenlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. There he severed as a liaisons officer between England and North America. In 1941, he was involved in an air crash and regrettably he met his demise.

I’ll be forever grateful to Banting and Best for their astounding breakthrough. This discovery has helped many people suffering with diabetes and is definitely the biggest breakthrough in my eyes in the diabetes world.

Words of Sir Frederick Banting:

 “Insulin is not a cure for diabetes; it is a treatment. It enables the diabetic to burn sufficient carbohydrates, so that proteins and fats may be added to the diet in sufficient quantities to provide energy for the economic burdens of life.”