A NIDDK Overview of Diabetes
What Is the Status of Diabetes Research? continued...
Other Government agencies that sponsor
diabetes programs are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the
Indian Health Service, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the
Bureau of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense.
Many organizations outside of the Government
support diabetes research and education activities. These organizations include
the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
International, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
In recent years, advances in diabetes
research have led to better ways to manage diabetes and treat its
complications. Major advances include:
- New forms of purified insulin, such as human insulin
produced through genetic engineering
- Better ways for doctors to monitor blood glucose levels and
for people with diabetes to test their own blood glucose levels at
- Development of external and implantable insulin pumps that
deliver appropriate amounts of insulin, replacing daily injections
- Laser treatment for diabetic eye disease, reducing the risk
- Successful transplantation of kidneys in people whose own
kidneys fail because of diabetes
- Better ways of managing diabetic pregnancies, improving
chances of successful outcomes
- New drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and better ways to manage
this form of diabetes through weight control
- Evidence that intensive management of blood glucose reduces
and may prevent development of microvascular complications of
- Demonstration that antihypertensive drugs called
ACE-inhibitors prevent or delay kidney failure in people with
What Will the Future Bring?
In the future, it may be possible to
administer insulin through nasal sprays or in the form of a pill or patch.
Devices that can "read" blood glucose levels without having to prick a
finger to get a blood sample are also being developed.
Researchers continue to search for the cause
or causes of diabetes and ways to prevent and cure the disorder. Scientists are
looking for genes that may be involved in type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes.
Some genetic markers for type 1 diabetes have been identified, and it is now
possible to screen relatives of people with type 1 diabetes to see if they are
at risk for diabetes.
The new Diabetes Prevention Trial -- type 1
diabetes, sponsored by NIDDK, identifies relatives at risk for developing type
1 diabetes and treats them with low doses of insulin or with oral insulin-like
agents in the hope of preventing type 1 diabetes. Similar research is carried
out at other medical centers throughout the world.
Transplantation of the pancreas or
insulin-producing beta cells offers the best hope of cure for people with type
1 diabetes. Some pancreas transplants have been successful. However, people who
have transplants must take powerful drugs to prevent rejection of the
transplanted organ. These drugs are costly and may eventually cause serious
Scientists are working to develop less
harmful drugs and better methods of transplanting pancreatic tissue to prevent
rejection by the body. Using techniques of bioengineering, researchers are also
trying to create artificial islet cells that secrete insulin in response to
increased sugar levels in the blood.
For type 2 diabetes, the focus is on ways to
prevent diabetes. Preventive approaches include identifying people at high risk
for the disorder and encouraging them to lose weight, exercise more, and follow
a healthy diet. The Diabetes Prevention Program, another new NIDDK project,
will focus on preventing the disorder in high-risk populations.