Diabetes has become a pandemic, leaving more than 422 million people worldwide on lifelong medication. Science and scientists are struggling to find a diabetes treatment that can cure this chronic disease permanently.
Diabetes is a prime cause of diseases such as kidney failure, blindness, heart attack, and stroke. The number of people affected by any kind of diabetic disorder has grown 4 times to what it was about 4 decades ago. This has led the WHO to consider diabetes as an epidemic, predicting that it will soon become the 7th leading cause of death all over the world.
Despite its enormous impact, there is still no cure for any type of diabetes. The current treatments available help patients control symptoms to some extent, but people with diabetes still face many long-term health problems.
What Are Advanced Treatments For Diabetes?
Diabetes affects the regulation of insulin, a hormone necessary for the absorption of glucose into cells, resulting in high blood sugar. Despite some similarities in symptoms, the two main types of diabetes develop in different ways. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin-producing pancreatic cells. In contrast, type 2 diabetics develop resistance to insulin, which means it has less and less effect on lowering blood sugar.
The biotech industry has apprehended this chance and is working to develop new treatments for diabetes and is pursuing a cure.
Let’s see what’s happening on the ground and how it will change the way diabetes is treated.
Type 1 diabetes
Replace missing cells with cell therapy
Cell therapy is still a very young and fresh concept. Cell therapy is one of the greatest hopes for a cure for diabetes, especially type 1 diabetes. Replacing the missing insulin-producing cells can potentially restore normal insulin production and save the patient.
However, the first attempts at transplanting pancreatic cells were largely unsuccessful, mainly because the immune responses rejected and destroyed the transplanted cells. The lack of sponsors is also a limitation.
A Belgian company is pursuing a method where a patient’s liver cells are transformed into insulin-producing cells to avoid problems with the supply of donor cells. In the UK, a company is developing a similar process to source cells from the pancreas.
Major pharmaceutical companies are still in the early stages of developing their own cellular diabetes treatments. One of the largest diabetes treatment providers is bidding on stem cells and encapsulated devices, saying the first clinical trials could take place in the “next few years”.
Although the promises are great, these technologies are still far from the market. First, clinical trials must show they work. In addition, prices can be high because cell therapies for other uses, such as oncology, come with six-figure prices and struggle to be reimbursed by health insurance companies. Since diabetes is largely not an immediately life-threatening illness compared to cancer, health insurance companies in some countries may be reluctant to cover treatment.
Type 2 diabetes
Stimulating insulin production
One of the greatest successes in the treatment of type 2 diabetes has been glucagon-like peptide (GLP) 1 receptor agonists, which induce insulin production in pancreatic beta cells and, at the same time, the secretion of glucagon, a suppressive hormone with the opposite effect of insulin. All major pharmaceutical companies have GLP1 drugs on the market or in their projects. A company is going ahead with a first oral version of a GLP1 drug that is now on the market.
It wasn’t until the last decade that scientists recognized the primary role that microbes living inside and outside of us play in our health. The human microbiome, and the gut microbiome, in particular, has been linked to several chronic diseases, including diabetes.
An unbalanced microbiome has been found in diabetic patients who have a less diverse gut microbiome than healthy people. Recent studies have shown that stool transplants, used to transference the microbiome of a healthy human being to the gut of a diabetic, can lead to short-term enhancements in resistance to insulin in overweight patients with type 2 diabetes.
Although capable, the field of the microbiome is still very undeveloped and its intricacy makes it difficult to establish causality after finding a connection. Until other diabetes treatments are tested in a clinic, it will be tough to regulate the true power of the microbiome in this section.
What’s Next in Diabetes Management?
The market for diabetes is expected to be around 86 billion business by 2025. Scientists are already researching to introduce microchips that can help in identifying type 1 diabetes before any symptoms appear. Also, about nanorobots that travel in the bloodstream while measuring the glucose and administer insulin.