Tag: Immune system

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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What does Ramadan mean to a Type 1 diabetic?

Monday 6th of June, marked the beginning of the blessed month of Ramadan, which is observed during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, Muslim’s fast from sunrise until sunset, when they are without food and without water.

Fasting-TIME-LINE-  So what does Ramadan mean for Muslim diabetics? What does that mean to me?

As a Muslim and a diabetic, I am exempt from fasting. Islam makes exceptions for those who are ill or on medication, for pregnant or breast feeding women etc.

Something you may not know about me, when I was first diagnosed it was also the very first time I tried to fast. I was excited to attempt the fasting and had set my mind to really giving it my all.

Day one was a struggle. I felt awful of course because I did not know that my diabetes had begun to manifest. I felt exhausted. I had an urge to drink constantly and why did I need to urinate so frequently? I hadn’t taken one drop of liquid all day. I slept and slept, but still could not find the motivation to do the things I needed to do. I thought to myself, maybe this is how the fasting was supposed to feel. It was was a struggle but I made it to the end.

Day two came and I felt like it was even more of a struggle than day one. I continued to tell myself that, this was how the fast was supposed to feel. The symptoms from the day before seemed to be amplified. I walked around with my eyes half closed from sheer exhaustion and a thirst like no other.  It completely drained me but I made it to the end of another day. I remember breaking my fast and consuming ridiculous amounts of water, juice anything to quench my thirst.

I had started to lose weight, my clothes were hanging off me. If you knew me then, you’d know how skinny and tall I was. Therefore any amount of weight loss was extremely evident. My Mother noticed the severe amount of weight I had lost and some of the symptoms I presented. She insisted that I stop the fasting. Even though I felt awful, I also felt sad to stop fasting. It pained me to think that I was not going to be continuing, but deep down I knew that I could not continue as I was. And as they say the rest is history, you can read my diabetes story in more detail here.

After my diagnosis and every year Ramadan came around, I found it hard to truly find my place.  Everyone in my family was fasting and I could not partake in the fasting so what else could I do?

I had to find other ways to be a part of this special month.  As I investigated and connected more with my religion, I began to understand that there were other aspects to Ramadan and that Ramadan wasn’t solely just about the fast itself. It was only one portion of the whole month.

 

So what did I learn?

  • Connecting with the Creator – One of the first and most important aspects that I learnt was, that for the entire month I had to try my best to live in an environment where I was more conscious of my creator, every second of the day. It was also a time for spiritual reflection and deep devotion of oneself to worship and pray to God     and to try my best to solidify my relationship with him. Reading as much of the Quran (the holy book for Muslims) and really taking my time to understand it properly.

 

  • Check yourself before you wreck yourself – It was also a month where I could evaluate my own behaviour and attitude towards myself and others. It taught me how to control my anger, ego, arrogance and to show humility and politeness, kindness and forgiveness to others (something I try to do every day, regardless of month).

 

  • Offerings – It was also a time to be generous and give charity (Zakat) to those in need. Because I wasn’t able to fast, with this aspect I give money to support someone (with food) in need for the entire month. It also became a time for me to strive to do as many good deeds as possible.

 

  • Leave off that bad language/ attitude/ everything – For those who know me, I don’t use bad language. I leave off the F and P’s and Qs and try to avoid it all together daily. However, during this time it is important that we aim to do these things and to be more aware of the language we chose to use. Staying away from desires and sins becomes very important for observing this entire month.

 

  • Brain training – One of the benefits of fasting is that it helps to repair and build new connections in the brain by generating new synapses and ultimately keeping the mind young. I have had to find other ways to challenge my brain to allow it to grow and strengthen itself and in turn keep it young. I do this by constantly learning new things, new languages (currently tackling Korean), reading on subjects I knew nothing about or reading around subjects in more detail.  

 

 So what are the benefits of fasting?

By fasting, it demonstrates our ability not only to conquer hunger but also our capacity to control psychological aspects of our behaviour, such as our reaction to things that we dislike. There are also many scientific benefits such as;

 

  • Speeds up metabolism – Fasting Intermittently, gives your digestive system a break whilst promoting your metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently. Intermittent fasts can regulate your digestion and encourage healthy bowel function, and therefore improving your metabolic function.

 

  • Fasting can improve your immune system – It does this by reducing free radical damage, reduces inflammatory conditions and also eliminates the production of cancer cells.

 

  • Improves Brain function – This fantastic lecture by Mark Mattson who is the Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University, and one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, outlines some of the benefits fasting can have on the brain.

 

  • Fasting for Clarity of mind and soul – Fasting is not just a practice for Muslims, many other religions also chose to fast,  just ike many members of my own family, who fast during Lent. It is a way to help many people feel connected to life by practicing things such as reading(holy text), meditating , performing yoga and martial arts. Because the body is deprived of food for a period of time this allows the body to make more energy. It gives the body a respite and a chance to heal and to reorder its systems. It allows us to feel better both physically and mentally (the mind is able to repair, develop new connections and reset itself).  With a lighter body and clearer mind we become more aware of our surroundings, our beliefs and of course our actions.

 

Amina xx

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