Terry Cordingley’s nephew was 5 years old when diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Now, 12, he uses a pump to infuse insulin into his body.

“There was a period when he was not taking his meds — didn’t want to take them,” said Cordingley, who serves on the board of directors of the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF). “He would eat whatever he wanted to — wasn’t watching his diet. His blood sugar was over 400.”

JDRF was founded in 1970 by parents of children with Type 1 diabetes. Its mission is to find a cure for diabetes by supporting biomedical research.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas gland worsens over time to keep blood sugar levels normal. The chronic, opportunistic disease can affect every organ in the body, often resulting in kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, heart attack, stroke and amputations — among other disease processes, said Renee MacDonald, executive director of the Central Oklahoma Chapter JDRF.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disease manifesting during childhood or the teenage years. Type 2 diabetes usually appears during adulthood, although it is becoming much more prevalent in children. A person’s body cannot effectively manage the insulin it produces with Type 2 diabetes.

“We do a lot of funding that helps those with Type 2 diabetes because once you have diabetes — though Type 1 and Type 2 are really different — once you have it, your complications are the same,” said MacDonald, who lives in Edmond.

Her two-year involvement with JDRF was spurred by her father’s battle with Type 2 diabetes. He’s had a mini stroke and five stents put in his heart.

More than 80-cents on the dollar raised by JDRF supports finding a cure, MacDonald said. JDRF lists six main areas of research goals:

n Perfecting islet transplantation without chronic immunosuppression.

n Creating safe and widely available “universal donor” supplies of insulin-secreting cells for transplantation.

n Regenerating the body’s own beta cells without islet transplantation.

n Perfecting a closed-loop artificial pancreas

n Creating novel therapeutics for predicting, preventing and reversing complications, and

n Maintaining or restoring immune tolerance in new-onset patients and those at-risk for developing diabetes.

JDRF research has so far allowed more than 500 people with Type 1 diabetes to receive an islet transplantation.

Islets are cells in the pancreas. Islet transplantation involves a small amount the islet cells placed into the pancreas, MacDonald said. Still, patients receiving the transplantation must continue taking immune suppression drugs in order to live. And the transplantation is not a cure for children, MacDonald said.

Cost and availability is a major problem for patients needing an islet transplantation. Two cadavers are needed for removing islet cells for an individual’s transplantation. Six-million cadavers would be needed for the 3 million people with Type 1 diabetes needing an islet transplant in the United States.

That’s not a reasonable solution, MacDonald said. So JDRF is investigating how the body might be able to regenerate diminishing islet cells.

The closed-loop artificial pancreas is a recent JDRF research effort. JDRF announced its annual conference in November, a major campaign to help bring the artificial pancreas and the continuing blood glucose monitor to the market. Availability of the glucose monitor could occur before 2007, MacDonald added.

“The artificial pancreas has a lot of people in the medical community excited because right now a lot of people aren’t sure what the cure for diabetes will look like,” MacDonald said. “Is it just the artificial pancreas? Then you have the continuous blood glucose monitor. Or is it reversing the onset of diabetes?

There does not appear to be a magic bullet, MacDonald said, because early stages of diabetes can sometimes be reversed. But an artificial pancreas could be a better treatment option for patients with chronic diabetes.

“Without JDRF’s involvement, it would probably take 10 years to bring the artificial pancreas to the market,” MacDonald said. “And if JDRF gets involved and helps being a steward and advocate on behalf of the patients, it could be five years.”

A scary factor for families with diabetes is still having complications from the disease even though every effort has been made to control the disease. As a result, JDRF is looking for better ways to partner with hospitals and pediatric endocrinologists.

“We’re going to be partnering throughout the state and doing family networking,” she said. “We will have that set-up in Edmond. We’ll be talking to the school nurses and reaching out to them.”

(Features Editor James Coburn may be reached via e-mail at jcoburn@edmondsun.com.)

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