Articles, Blog

Racing to find a cure for diabetes

October 22, 2019

(music) I am Jose Oberholzer. I am a professor
of surgery and bioengineering here at the University of Illinois in Chicago. I have
run 17 marathons. Some people have compared life to a marathon, and I think that applies
to research and to any innovation. You can’t go out too fast, you can’t go out too slow,
and you always have to keep the finish line in mind. Translational research is the part
of science that at times too translates the findings in from the basic research lab to
something that could be clinically or practically applied. Islet transplantation is a functional
cure for diabetes. The isolate, the insulin-producing cells from cadaver organs and then culture
the cells and then infuse those cells into the liver of a diabetic patient and if that
takes then the patient can stop taking insulin and is functionally cured from diabetes. After
successful islet transplant, life of a diabetic changes really dramatically. Patients who
I often check for 20, 30 or 40 insulin wake up one morning and they can’t believe it.
One of our nurses called it the total body transformation. In our first clinical trials
we achieved an amazing success rate of this, about eighty percent of patients not having
to inject anymore insulin one-year after the transplant. Islet transplantation the way
we do it today is very successful, but there are still some challenges ahead of us such
as having enough cells to really transplant all the patients or eliminating the need for
having to take medications to suppress rejection. We are working on both obstacles in collaboration
with our partners in the Chicago Diabetes Project. Finding a functional cure for diabetes
is bigger than any university and requires a global effort. The Chicago Diabetes Project
is a global collaboration of scientists that just have one focus on how can we functionally
cure diabetes. We have the brightest minds in the world one-way a moment to call someone
in Norway the next moment you have somebody down in Cleveland and like this we can advance
the field the way we have to. Cellmates On the Run is the charity part of for the Chicago
Diabetes Project and we recruit marathon runners to raise money. Cellmates On the Run has raised
over one million dollars over the last four years. So how close are we to the finish line
of finding a cure for diabetes? Well a marathon has a 26.2 miles and I would say we are at
mile 21. Innovative medicine. It happens here.

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