Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Promising Diabetes Treatment Not for Everyone


WebMD Health News

June 6, 2000 -- A new treatment that may prove to be a beacon of hope for people with type 1 diabetes may be little more than a glaring reminder for people with type 2 diabetes of how the diseases differ.

Both types of the disease are called diabetes, but they harm the body in different ways, and type 1, in the short term, is much more life threatening than type 2. "They're both problems with insulin -- that's their common denominator," Suzanne Gebhart, MD, professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and endocrine section chief at the Emory Clinic, tells WebMD. The similarities just about end there.

Insulin is produced by islet cells in the pancreas and is necessary for maintaining proper levels of sugar in the blood. In type 1, the islet cells don't function properly, so the people don't get the insulin they need. Daily shots of insulin are needed to prevent life-threatening reactions. A new study to be released in TheNew England Journal of Medicine details successful transplantations of islet cells into the bodies of seven people suffering from advanced stages of type 1 diabetes. Because their bodies can now produce their own insulin, the people no longer need the shots, and hopefully, they may not face the side effects of their diabetes.

About 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. It generally begins later in life, and about 85% of the people affected by it are overweight. Whether that excess weight actually causes the diabetes is still open to debate.

One thing is for sure, though; the islet cells of type 2 diabetics do the job they're supposed to. The problem is the body doesn't use the insulin that's produced properly, so the cells keep producing more and more insulin to less and less effect. Eventually, the islet cells can't meet the demand, leaving the patient with constantly high levels of sugar in the blood and the complications that go along with it. Infusing new islet cells into a type 2 diabetic could possibly help, to a degree.

"[It] probably would have some effect," says Gebhart. "Type 2 diabetes is also associated with islet abnormalities, so presumably getting more islets, some of which function a lot better than the individual has, would be an advantage."

But it wouldn't be a cure, which is a possibility for type 1 diabetics. It wouldn't correct the other aspect of type 2, which is insulin's inability to get the job done, "so it wouldn't be a full answer, and certainly at this experimental stage it would be questionably ethical, because it's too new, too complicated to take on that different disease," Gebhart tells WebMD.

Type 2 may be controlled by changing one's lifestyle, but type 1 can only be controlled by the insulin shots, and if that fails, an islet transplantation may be the person's final appeal. Conditions for many type 2 diabetics do not get that dire until late in the disease. Gebhart agrees islet transplantation would be a "radical" procedure for someone with type 2 diabetes.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 
Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article