While it's not a cure, a new short-term therapy for type 1 diabetes appears to halt the progression of the disease, with no serious side effects. That's promising news for the 1 million Americans with what is also known as insulin dependent diabetes.
Catherine Price is a natural on the piano. She has type 1 diabetes but doesn't let it slow her down. She keeps her disease in tight control.
"It's a tightrope and if you're off on either side there are consequences," said Price.
Price has it better than many diabetics, thanks to a two-week experimental treatment she received shortly after diagnosis. Researchers say hOKT3g1 is the first short-term therapy that appears to slow progression of the disease.
"We know that it inactivates the cells that are responsible for the development of type 1 diabetes. So somehow or another, it turns them off so that they don't continue to destroy the insulin-producing cells," said Endocrinologist Kevan Herold, M.D.
While it's unclear how long the effects will last, two years later Price is producing more of her own insulin than she probably would have without the treatment.
"People who control their diabetes very well will have a much lower risk of developing the long-term complications, such as eye disease, kidney disease and others. And if you're able to make some of your own insulin, it's a lot easier to do that," said Dr. Herold, of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.
"I'm just really happy about it. Because if I didn't have that, I can't even imagine how hard it would be," Price said.
Researchers are conducting additional studies to see if hOKT3g1 might also be effective in treating people who've had type 1 diabetes longer, and also in delaying the onset of the disease.
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