How close are we to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes?

For many parents, the news that their child is living with type 1 diabetes comes as a huge shock. Being told something of such magnitude can lead to plenty of conflicting emotions. The fact that a lifetime of administering insulin, often with painful injections, can still lead to complications and a lifespan 20 years shorter than the general population means many people desperately want to find a cure.

There’s no simple answer to the question ‘are we close to a type 1 diabetes cure’ because the significant breakthrough that’s needed could be around the corner, or it could be further down the road. All we know is that world-class research teams around the globe are following several paths, one of which will lead us to a cure.

However, there is a shortage of available pancreases and pancreatic beta cells meaning that it is unlikely it could ever work as a cure on a widespread basis (there are around 300,000 people in the UK alone with type 1 diabetes). The transplants that have taken place so far also require the patient to take a large amount of immunosuppressive drugs, just to protect the transplanted tissue.

But as well as finding a cure, which could still take many years, scientists are also trying to come up with ways that people living with type 1 diabetes today can better manage their condition. They are also experimenting with ways to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes while people are in the ‘honeymoon phase’ of the condition.

While we cannot be certain about how long it will take us to find a cure, many are optimistic that a child with type 1 diabetes will live to see the day a cure is discovered. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other things to be happy about when it comes to type 1 diabetes research, including improved treatments and a greater understanding of its causes.

Visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for more information.

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