Saturday I was one of the many at the extremely well-attended JDRF TypeOneNation DC Research Summit, in suburban Washington. Lots of updates on research all over the diabetes spectrum, and a chance to interact with some of the attendees. Including one I was able to meet for the first time. There was an awful lot packed into one day, so I’m going to break it out into three days of posts. Today, I’ll cover the morning’s presentations. Tomorrow, the afternoon talks. On Wednesday, my interactions with summit attendees and a DOC meetup!
The day began with a talk by Bethany Salmon, who is in charge of translational development for JDRF. What does that mean? I was wondering that when the talk started. What I found out was that it means the development and commercialization of therapies for people with diabetes. Those therapies include Artificial Pancreas, smart insulin, beta cell encapsulation, prevention, and restoration of functioning pancreatic beta cells. That last thing, Bethany reminded us, is JDRF’s definition of a cure. Any of the other therapies would be great developments, but they would also mean JDRF is still going to work for a cure.
Anyway, translational development basically means the JDRF team works to identify and accelerate projects. If they see something promising, they’ll provide matching funds for research. What happens then? They hold quarterly meetings with recipients of funding to make sure they’re on target. Recipients of JDRF research grants are held to specific performance milestones for their projects. It’s good to know JDRF is being responsible with the money they’ve raised over the years.
Ms. Salmon also shared a short JDRF video that spoke to me. To me, it’s the perfect video to show at gatherings like this, where some of the people in attendance may be feeling like the diabetes wheels are spinning in place, and they need a fresh pick-me-up. I’m happy to share it with you here:
Next was a great presentation from Dr. Trang Ly, who was filling in for an ill Dr. Bruce Buckingham, talking about closed-loop testing, and studies to try to help lower instances of hypoglycemia at night. Dr. Buckingham and Dr. Ly work in pediatric endocrinology at Stanford University. I’ve written before about the work they’re doing out there, and Dr. Ly gave us an update.
She talked about research on a low-glucose suspend system like the Medtronic 530g with Enlite. They found that LGS can prevent severe hypoglycemia in most cases, in both children and adults. Makes you wonder why Med-T didn’t try harder to get pediatric approval from the FDA for their device(s).
They’ve done a series of tests (in Australia, if I remember correctly) on predictive low-glucose suspend, where the system predicts a hypo, then shuts off the pump. They started testing with adults, then tested with teens, and progressively younger kids. They start testing with 3 to 6 year olds soon.
She also gave a recap of diabetes camp testing out in California. And she mentioned two studies starting soon: One with kids at Camp Jordan in Virginia, and bionic pancreas testing using a bi-hormonal pump up in Boston. Most moving to me was early on in her presentation though. She had handwritten answers from kids who were asked the question “What do you fear most about nighttime hypoglycemia?”. The answers: “Waking up in a coma and dying”, and “Not waking up”. Those are typical responses… but when you see them in the handwriting of children, who should never have to bear that kind of burden, it really hits you where you live.
And while I’m at it, let me pass along a great big thank you to children and their parents who agree to take part in this crucial testing of closed-loop systems.
Then it was Dr. Roland Tisch, who’s working out of the University of North Carolina, trying to see if there are options for reversing diabetes (other than, you know, cinnamon and okra). There was a lot covered in his short time on the podium, so you might want to check out his presentation when it gets posted online in a week or so. In short, according to Dr. Tisch, there are three keys to establishing remission in patients with diabetes: 1)Eliminating pathogenic T-cells in islets, 2)Increasing Treg cells to maintain long-term autoimmune protection, and 3)”Normal” immunity has to remain unaffected. In other words, fixing one part of our immune system doesn’t help if the therapy breaks another part of it.
Look for Dr. Tisch’s presentation later to learn more about pathogenic T-cells and Treg cells and why they’re important discoveries, and important parts of the research they’re doing.
All of this happened before lunch on Saturday. No wonder my head was spinning! Tomorrow, I’ll try to cover the afternoon speakers, and on Wednesday, more about the human interaction portion of this terrific event.