Local News

UNC Testing Treatment That Could Lead To Diabetes Cure

Posted April 18, 2002

— More than 16 million people have diabetes. For many of them, life is a ritual of needle pricks and insulin injections.

Diabetes treatments have come a long way over the years. Researchers at UNC are now testing a treatment that could lead to a cure.

Some diabetes patients in the Triangle are among the first to try it. Ronald Morrow, who has lived with diabetes for 40 years, is one of them.

"It's insulin four times a day, checking your sugar. You never get used to it," he said.

Someday, Morrow and millions of others with diabetes may not have to worry so much about their daily rituals to keep diabetes under control.

Doctors at the UNC Diabetes Care Center are testing a new protein called INGAP.

The protein is made in the pancreas and creates islets, the tissues that make insulin.

Research in animals has shown that injecting the INGAP protein causes the pancreas to grow new insulin-producing cells.

"It would get their body to make insulin," said Dr. John Buse of the UNC Diabetes Care Center. "Effectively this treatment could almost be a cure."

UNC is one of three centers in the country testing the treatment; the Texas Diabetes Institute in San Antonio and MedStar Research Institute in Washington, D.C. are also participating.

Buse's office gets calls from all over the country. He even got a request from a man in the North Pole.

The study is in its early stages, and Buse said no one knows if it will lead to a cure.

"I think cautious optimism is appropriate," he said.

Morrow said that he has had to control his excitement about the possibility.

"It's an epidemic and I'm part of that epidemic," he said. "Now, I can hopefully be part of the cure."

If the treatment works, researchers said patients would still have to give themselves the INGAP injections, but they may only been needed monthly or several times a year.

This treatment, and others that are being studied, would benefit people whose diabetes is well-controlled. So there is even more incentive now than ever to take care of your diabetes.

While the treatment shows promise for helping type 1 and type 2 diabetes, researchers say it shows the most promise as a possible cure for type 1.

Right now, UNC has enough participants for the INGAP study. Diabetes patients with questions about other research opportunities can call the following numbers:

  • Type 1: (919) 484-0931 ext. 271
  • Type 2: (919) 484-0931 ext. 268
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