Scientific Research for Type I Diabetes with Richard Furlanetto
WebMD Live Events Transcript
Join Richard Furlanetto, M.D. for a discussion on the current scientific research for type I diabetes. WebMD members are encouraged to attend and bring their questions and concerns to the program.
Event Date: 05/25/2000.
The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.
Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live. Join Richard Furlanetto, MD, PhD, scientific director of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, for a discussion about the latest research into Type I diabetes.
The medical opinions given by Dr. Furlanetto are his and his alone. If you have specific questions or are concerned about your health, please consult your personal physician.
Welcome to the program, Dr. Furlanetto. It's a pleasure having you with us. Before we get into questions on Type I diabetes, can you please tell everyone a little bit about your background and area of expertise.
Dr. Furlanetto: I have MD and PhD degrees. I am a Board certified pediatric endocrinologist. I am currently the scientific director of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF).
Moderator: What is the difference between juvenile or Type I diabetes and adult-onset or Type II diabetes?
Dr. Furlanetto: Juvenile diabetes is caused by immune rejection of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. These are called beta cells. This results in insulin deficiency. Type II, or adult diabetes, is due to a resistance to the effects of insulin -- not to insulin deficiency. Patients with Type II diabetes can, at least early in the illness, make sufficient quantities of insulin but don't respond well to them. They can take pills which sensitize them to the insulin. People with Type I, however, must take insulin injections.
Moderator: What are the warning signs of Type I?
Dr. Furlanetto: Usually the first signs are excessive thirst and urination. In children, bedwetting in a child who has previously been potty trained is not uncommon. In older children and adults, they get up frequently at night to urinate and usually to drink. Other signs include weight loss despite excessive hunger, weakness, and blurry vision. When these signs have been neglected, it can progress to a diabetic ketoacidosis, which is rapid breathing and frequently a loss of consciousness.
Moderator: How many people have Type I diabetes?
Dr. Furlanetto: It's thought that there are about a million people in the US. There are 30,000 new cases diagnosed a year, and about half are in children.
Moderator: Are boys more prone to get it?
Dr. Furlanetto: No. There is an equal gender distribution.
Moderator: What are some of the new research advances being done to curb this disease?
Dr. Furlanetto: There are many, and many are promising and exciting. Perhaps the most exciting is the recent report of successfully transplanting islets into patients with Type I diabetes. Islets contain the cells which make insulin, and by transplanting them, they have cured the patient's diabetes. This treatment is still experimental and will certainly be improved, but it nonetheless is a very important first step for curing this illness.
Moderator: Can anyone with diabetes have this transplant?
Dr. Furlanetto: No. Currently it is for people who have severe hypoglycemia or other complications. It is also not for children. The reason is that it is still experimental, and the drugs which are needed to prevent rejection of the islets may have unforeseen long term complications. It is hoped, however, that ultimately this therapy can be made extremely safe and available to everyone with Type I diabetes.
Moderator: Will this new protocol be replicated elsewhere so more people can participate (again referring to the transplant)?
Dr. Furlanetto: Initially, the studies were done in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and eight patients were transplanted. All eight became insulin independent, which was very exciting. The study will now be extended to include 32 patients in the US and Europe in the next 12 to 18 months. Hopefully, many more will then be included.