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Checking in on Research for a Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine

As a vascular surgeon, Dr. Lam sees many patients who are diabetic. He is well known in his field for amputation prevention and limb salvage, a topic many diabetics are unfortunately all-too-familiar with.

Dr. Lam has a professional partnership with the American Diabetes Association and is involved in research protocol and other areas.

Diabetes research is of course primarily focused on finding a cure and for good reason. According to the ADA, someone in America is diagnosed with diabetes every 23 seconds and the disease causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

In 2015 alone, the ADA made more than $31 million available for research, supporting 354 research projects at leading academic research institutions across the U.S.

Current research is focused on developing a vaccine that could one day spell the end of Type 1 Diabetes (also called juvenile diabetes because it tends to show up in childhood). Imagine that; the possibility of preventing or reversing Type 1 Diabetes with a simple shot rather than facing a lifetime of insulin injections.

The idea of a vaccine has been around for decades but a truly effective solution has remained just outside of researchers’ grasp. Type 1 Diabetes affects about 1.25 million Americans, making it the best-known autoimmune disease in the world.

What does autoimmune mean, you ask? It is a rare instance where the body turns on its own immune system, mistaking the body’s own cells as invaders. Known as autoimmunity, these misguided assaults are responsible for many different diseases, including Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus and, yes, Diabetes.

In the case of Diabetes, the immune system mistakes beta cells, the specialized cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, for invaders. Over time, the immune system destroys the beta cells, and with them, the body’s ability to produce insulin.

The hope is that a vaccine would teach the immune system not to react to those beta cells and – if given early enough – prevent people from ever developing the disease. As with most vaccines, Type 1 vaccine research focuses primarily on preventing people from getting the disease in the first place rather than on reversing the disease.

To support research to find a cure for Diabetes, consider a donation to the American Diabetes Association. Click here for more information.


The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.

The information contained in this website is neither intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate or best care for any given health issue, nor is it intended to be used as a substitute for the independent judgment of a physician for any given health issue. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history. Please seek physician's advice. Like any procedure, it may come with benefits, risks or side effects associated. Click here for additional information.

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