This year, I flew down to Miami to visit a place that I haven’t been since I was 8 years old and newly diagnosed with T1D... the Diabetes Research Institute.
It was surreal to go back there, and I'm excited to share the details of the trip with you as I had the opportunity to speak with some of the lead researchers and to witness some of the groundbreaking working going to on to find a biological cure for T1D.
Throughout the day, I went to 4 different labs that are all pushing forward different areas of research.
First, I met with Dr. Lanzoni who specializes in stem cell research. Stem cell-based therapies provide the opportunity of regenerating and protecting beta cell for patients with Type 1 Diabetes. In his lab, I got to see actual islet cells that were created from stem cells.
Then I met with Dr. Abdulreda whose team is pushing forward research in transplanting insulin-producing cells in the eye.
In pre-clinical studies, insulin-producing islets are transplanted into the eye, then using a sophisticated microscope, researchers can observe the cells through the naturally-transparent cornea in real time — as if through a living window. They are able to watch as islets engraft onto the iris, grow blood vessels and respond to stimulation. They can also observe how the immune system launches its attack on the islet cells and watch the body’s response to new therapeutic strategies that attempt to protect islets from this deadly immune system attack.
The next stop was Dr. Norma Kenyon’s lab - if you’ve been following me for a while, you know she was one of my childhood heroes and we have remained close over the years. Her daughter lives with type one so the energy and passion and dedication to finding a cure is what makes her such a strong leader in her role as director and professor of surgery, microbiology, immunology, and biomedical engineering at DRI.
The last stop was Dr. Domingez Bendala’s lab and I asked him, “was a lot of what is being worked on here today conceivable when I was last here?”
He shared that back then, so many of the advancements we see today were just science fiction.
It’s so easy to get into the black and whiteness of “either there is a cure or there’s not” but the thing is, there has been so many advancements that were just “science fiction” last time I was there with my family as a little girl just diagnosed and that alone makes me hopeful as ever.
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