New Diabetes Breakthroughs Offer Hope - 8 News NOW

Paula Francis, Anchor

New Diabetes Breakthroughs Offer Hope

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Of the 20 million people in the in the U.S. with diabetes, 10-percent of them have type one. That's where the pancreas stops making insulin, and patients must rely on injections.

One breakthrough could prevent people from ever getting diabetes, and another could help diabetics make insulin on their own. 

Noel Wynn looks healthy, but severe nerve damage from diabetes has wreaked havoc on her body. "This body has to last, and I am going to do everything I can to prolong my life and prevent anything."

That's what diabetes research centers on -- giving patients the longest, healthiest life possible, and now, how to prevent people from getting it.

Dr. Daniel Kaufman of UCLA has developed a vaccine to prevent type one diabetes. It slows down the attack on the immune system and saves cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. It worked on mice. Now, the goal is to vaccinate humans.

"We think that the earlier that we can identify children that are at, are destined to develop diabetes, and you change their immune responses, that they'll be fine for the rest of their lives," said Dr. Kaufman.

Across the country at the University of Miami, Dr. Luca Inverardi's goal is to make diabetics not dependent on injecting insulin to stay alive by perfecting a breakthrough procedure called an Islet Cell Transplant. "Patients will require a fraction of the insulin that they needed before the transplants."

He's run tests on animals -- implanting a bio mechanical mesh piece full of islet cells from a donor. It's safer than just injecting the cells into a patient's liver, because they don't have to depend on heavy doses of drugs that suppress the immune system.

"This could really represent a major advantage for patients," said Dr. Inverardi.

Patients like Noel, who've learned to live with the disease, would love the day to come when they didn't have to. The diabetes vaccine has shown to help preserve some insulin in newly diagnosed patients. It hasn't been tested in people who don't have diabetes yet.

The new Islet Cell Transplant device is still being tested on animals but should begin human trials in the coming years.

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