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The Blog of Drug Discovery News

Putting a face on diabetes isn’t too hard

In my role with ddn, whether in the print publication or the online venues, I get to write about myriad diseases that affect the human population on this planet.

From Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases to diabetes and cancer, companies that we cover each month are working to find new ways of battling these insidious diseases.

In talking with many of the people on the front lines of the research effort to develop these treatments, I get to put a name and face to efforts to improve our chances of surviving and thriving when these illnesses strike.

Over the years, the pages of ddn have featured stories about diseases that strike particularly close to home for those of us writing the articles. For me, it’s diabetes.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and it serves as a reminder for us all of a disease that is a growing problem.  According to some health studies, by 2050, one in three adults could be diabetic.

Today, nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes – including an estimated 6 million Americans who have it and don’t know it. It is estimated that another 57 million adults in the U.S. have pre-diabetes, placing them at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 95 percent of all cases.

I don’t have to look too far to put a face on diabetes. My wife was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes just over a year ago. Her father was diagnosed five years ago, but he lived with the disease for many years and didn’t know it, choosing to ignore the warning signs.

As a result of years of living with uncontrolled diabetes, my father-in-law today is 64 years old, legally blind and must undergo kidney dialysis three times a week. For him, it’s a matter of life or death.

After being diagnosed, my wife felt as if she were just handed a death sentence. I knew from the stories I’d written that there are two ways to live – you can control the disease or it can control you.

We’ve learned that type 2 diabetics can take a number of oral medications to help their body metabolize sugars, increase insulin production or block the absorption of carbohydrates.

My wife also has a key advantage over her father in her fight against diabetes – early detection. While a diagnosis is a life-changing experience, knowing the what you’re up against is instrumental in effective treatment.

It also is key in thwarting the ravages of diabetes, which include neuropathy, which causes tingling, numbness and destruction of nerves. Because of neuropathy, diabetics must check their feet regularly to ensure they have no wounds. If undetected, a wound can lead to infection that could lead to amputation. Diabetes may also lead to kidney disease, heart disease and blindness.

We’ve learned from the endocrinologist that the goal of diabetes treatment is the prevention of long-term complications. We’ve also had to talk to dietitians and diabetes educators, learning that it truly takes a village to keep a diabetic well.

I’ve learned that even a simple trip to the optometrist can heighten anxiety in my wife. She has her father as a constant reminder of what can happen with this disease.

Type 2 diabetics can take a number of oral medications to help their body metabolize sugars, increase insulin production or block the absorption of carbohydrates, and that’s where we are at. Thanks to the work of countless researchers over the decades, these treatments are available to help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels in check.

Researchers today are at work to discover new drug candidates that have greater efficacy against these diseases. Stepping outside of my role as a journalist and speaking as a husband and father, I have to say just how grateful I am for the work of these researchers. Whether you work at the biggest pharma or the smallest of labs, your work is having an impact on the lives of people the world over.

Some of you may even be motivated in the lab by your own personal experience. We all can share that common bond in the human condition. The faces of these diseases are all around us, and the battle is no less important today. That key discovery that could deliver the knock-out punch to a disease could be occurring in a lab right now.

And to all of the researchers who toil each day to find the Holy Grail, I thank you.

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November 17, 2010 - Posted by | Academia & Non-Profit, Corporate, Government, Labwork & Science | , , ,

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