In recent years, the research into new treatments and cures
diabetes has shown promise. Research also offers hope
that diabetes will become easier to monitor and treat, or even that a cure may
be found in the near future. But all of these treatments are
Treatment areas currently being explored
- Blood sugar monitoring
- Dietary therapies.
- Genetic therapies.
If you have a strong interest in any of these treatments,
discuss the treatment with your doctor.
New blood sugar monitoring technologies
monitors and lancets that minimize the pain from frequent finger
sticks or that allow alternate testing sites, such as your forearm, are now in
A continuous glucose monitor is a device with a sensor that is placed under the skin to measure blood glucose. Continuous glucose monitoring devices have
been shown to improve A1c levels in people age 25 or older who have
A combination insulin pump and
glucose monitoring system is approved for adults by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA). With this system, you insert a disposable sensor under
the skin around your waist. The sensor measures your blood sugar over 280 times
a day. An alarm sounds if you have unsafe sugar levels. You still need to test
your blood sugar using finger sticks to calibrate the device and before
changing your insulin dose. This device has the potential to give you more
information about how diet, exercise, and medicines affect blood sugar
New dietary therapies
New dietary research has shown
that certain foods may have an even more beneficial effect on diabetes
treatment than was first thought. For instance, increasing your consumption of
soluble fiber has been proved to help prevent high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
as effectively as taking an oral hypoglycemic medicine. Also, eating foods with
glycemic index may help keep your blood sugar levels within your target range.
Diabetes can be greatly affected by what you
eat. New research reaffirms this and reinforces the importance of having a
registered dietitian on your diabetes treatment team. A
registered dietitian can help you determine which new
dietary recommendations might be helpful.
New insulin therapies
The insulin patch is another
new method currently under development. An insulin patch functions much the
same way as a nicotine patch. A patch is placed on your skin, usually on your
arm, where it delivers a constant low dose of insulin. To increase your insulin
dose at meal times, you remove a tab on the patch to expose the skin to more
insulin. While the patch provides a very convenient, painless method of insulin
delivery, insulin does not travel through the skin easily.
shorter needles are available that make it less likely that you would inject
insulin into a muscle. Newer needles are also smaller in diameter, which makes
injections less painful.
Researchers have recently
identified a gene that is linked to
insulin resistance and that might predispose a person
to developing type 2 diabetes. This gene seems to promote excess production of
a protein called PC-1, which interferes with insulin's ability to help a cell
use glucose. It is hoped that this knowledge will help identify people who may
develop type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives and possibly help improve
their treatment. Possible therapies might include:
- Diabetes vaccines. An experimental vaccine to
prevent type 1 diabetes is being tested in mice. The vaccine, composed of DNA,
is designed to stop or prevent the body's destruction of its islet
- Gene therapy. Scientists have genetically engineered liver
cells to produce insulin. This procedure varies slightly from
islet cell transplants because the DNA that produces
insulin is actually inserted into liver cells. A drawback of this therapy is
that insulin produced by the liver is not regulated in the same way it would be
if it were produced by the pancreas. The liver does not increase the output of
insulin when a person eats and then decrease it between meals. Instead, the
liver produces a fairly constant amount of insulin. This could cause problems
at meal times for some people who have diabetes.
- Stem cells.
Researchers are exploring whether stem cells might be used to make cells that
produce insulin. Stem cells are early cells that have the ability to grow into
any type of cell.
- Immune system modulators. Scientists are studying
whether certain medicines can be given to people early in the course of their
type 1 diabetes to keep their remaining insulin-producing cells from being