Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Research May Yield CuresBy: Courtney Wills - February 5, 2014
A new research project valued at roughly $230 million may yield the answers for curing Alzheimer’s, diabetes, lupus, and arthritis.
Eight of the largest U.S. pharmaceutical companies are collaborating on the project with the National Institute of Health and the U.S. government to conduct extensive research on Alzheimer’s patients.
Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly & Co., Merck, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, Abbvie Inc., Biogen Idec Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., GlaxoSmithKline, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. are all participating in the joint effort, dividing the $230 million project costs evenly between themselves and the NIH.
Upon the estimate that Alzheimer’s victims will triple in numbers by 2015, the U.S. government decided to try and eradicate the crippling illness once and for all. The treatments for – and costs incurred from – the debilitating disease cost the country billions of dollars each year, currently affecting more than 5 million people in the U.S.
All research for determining an Alzheimer’s cure conducted previously has proven fruitless. Scientists at the top drug companies say that technology and science have not advanced far enough yet for a cure to be feasible. In the last two years, alone, two of the nation’s top companies each lost a substantial amount of funds from unsuccessful ventures into potential treatments for curing the disease.
Now, the evidence pointing to a possible solution for ending Alzheimer’s has become available, with researchers being able to pinpoint common “biomarkers” in tissue samples taken from Alzheimer’s patients, the keys to finding possible drug targets.
The NIH says that this first round of research – on Alzheimer’s – is expected to last about three to five years; should it end successfully, there is a very good chance that lupus, diabetes, and arthritis will also be explored.
However, new advancements in diabetes research has potentially slowed the severe need for studies to be conducted on diabetic patients to attempt to find a cure.
An associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, Ed Damiano, has joined together with Harvard Medical School assistant professor, Dr. Steven Russell, to develop a bionic pancreas that allows diabetics to live normal lives. The pancreas, which has been tested in groups of both adults and children, has been a success in regulating blood sugar levels without the patient having to inject insulin and keep a constant check on their own levels.
The “pancreas” has now been developed into something as small as a playing card, according to USA TODAY, checking and regulating blood sugar on its own through a continuous glucose monitor.
The monitor, which was first controlled by a laptop, is now controlled through an app on the iPhone, which is alerted when blood sugar levels need to be adjusted. The app then signals to the monitor that it needs to calculate how much of the blood sugar-regulating hormones, insulin and glucagon, the patient needs. The pancreas then releases the hormone on it’s own, after being given the necessary amount(s) needed by the monitor.
Type 1 diabetic Scott Scolnick, who participated in the trials, says that the device has “changed his life,” proving that no matter what or when he eats, his blood sugar will remain at a safe and healthy level.
Says Scolnick, “It’s been the most freeing experience I ever had in my life.”
Damiano, whose son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he almost a year old, vowed to his child that by the time his son left for college, his dad would have created a bionic pancreas. Damiano’s son, now a teenager, is about four years away from leaving for college. Damiano says that a promise is a promise, and that his vow to his son is one in which he intends to keep.
Damiano and Russell hope to have the pancreas approved by the FDA by 2017.
Main image courtesy @WSJ via Twitter.