Preventing Type 1 Diabetes - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Preventing Type 1 Diabetes

"There are not many diseases like this where you have the hope of actually preventing them from happening," said Dave Gould, the parents of three kids with type 1 diabetes.

In type 1 diabetes, a person's own immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Having a close family member with the disease makes a person ten-times more likely to develop it.

Now, researchers are focusing on those at high-risk and testing a new way to prevent the disease from ever happening.

Look quick. It's Patrick, Andrew, Nicholas, Sam, Sarah, Oliver, Annie and Maggie! Add mom and dad, and the ten of them make up the Gould family.

Three of the kids have type 1 diabetes. If blood sugars aren't carefully controlled, the disease can lead to blindness, kidney failure and even amputations.

"There's no vacation from diabetes. It's not like we can take a day off or a week off or anything like that."

The Gould's recently found out three-year-old Oliver is also at risk for developing the disease.

Dr. William Russell leads a study to prevent diabetes in kids. 

"We can actually measure things in the blood that will give a very good indication if somebody is on the road to developing diabetes or not," Russell said.

Then, those at risk patients are given insulin pills. The idea - the pill re-programs immune cells to become more tolerant to the insulin that the body attacks.

"There's a lot of preliminary data to back it up," Russell said.

In animals, the pills actually prevented mice from developing the disease, and in humans, they delayed it by almost five years - giving kids like Oliver more time to develop and become mature enough to take care of themselves.

"This would be a very important breakthrough if we could start out small and delay it, and ultimately preventing it would be miraculous."

Mother Ellen Gould agrees.

"To give him the chance to not have to deal with diabetes and not have that hanging over him would just be amazing," Ellen said.

For now, they'll take one day at a time, and pray the future will be a healthy one for the whole family.

So far, there have been no side effects of the oral insulin. Insulin given by mouth doesn't enter the bloodstream, so the pills have no effect on blood sugar.

Researchers are now enrolling patients in the study, so if you have a first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes, you may qualify.

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