I found this really cool new study that suggests that about a third of type 1 diabetics still produce insulin for years after the initial diagnosis. For those of you who are unaware, in type 1 diabetes the body doesn’t produce insulin (a vital part of the digestive system, without which you die) because the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. (The joke is “autoimmune disease: because the only thing tough enough to kick my ass is me.”)
This research is amazing because it’s such a game changer. It doesn’t affect all type 1 diabetics, as the title says, but it could change the way diabetes gets treated in some people. It’s not uncommon for peoples’ bodies to keep producing insulin even after diagnosis, which is known as the “honeymoon period” because it requires less work since the body is still somewhat able to regulate itself, but this proves that there’s definitely a subset of diabetics who still produce insulin for years after diagnosis–this study cites one individual who was producing insulin for 40 years after diagnosis!
It’s also a total game-changer because it could affect the type of policy coverage certain people receive. A really popular way of treating diabetes is the insulin pump, which acts as a sort of electronic pancreas that is manually controlled by the user and is attached to them at all times, kind of like a mini-IV. Insulin pump coverage by many health care plans depends on clinical proof of having an autoimmune disorder and having proof that the patient’s body is no longer producing insulin. In the case of the 30% of diabetics who are still producing insulin, this means that they can be denied coverage for this treatment.
The information used in this study to gather this information was taken by the T1DExchange, which collects information from type 1 diabetics. I’ve taken part in that–there’s a database somewhere that has some of my medical history pertaining to my diabetes. I’m glad to know that that information is helping with studies like this one!
Here’s the source for the article on this. Here’s the study, if you feel like wading through academic research. I love reading stuff like this, even though I don’t have the academic background to fully understand it. (If I didn’t have diabetes, I probably wouldn’t understand any of it–I haven’t taken a biology class since high school!) I’d love to do more work with diabetics, but I really don’t want to go to medical school, so for now I have to be content with reading articles on new research.