With President Bush's recent veto concerning stem cell research funding, hope for finding quick cures to many devastating diseases has dimmed in this country. However, there is still a bright spot on the horizon for sufferers of juvenile diabetes.
Unlike type 2, or adult onset diabetes, juvenile diabetes is an autoimmune disease that only strikes children and young adults, and it can't be managed simply by changing eating and exercise habits. Also called "insulin-dependent" diabetes, the Type 1 version involves the complete shutdown of the pancreas, the body's natural insulin-producing organ. Without insulin, we can't process the food we eat. Blood sugars quickly climb to toxic levels while the body essentially starves.
Insulin injections provide life support to millions of Americans -- including my son -- but they aren't a cure. It's a daily game of "whack-a-mole" with life or death consequences, as sufferers alternately treat high and low blood sugar levels by administering insulin or carbohydrates. Over the long haul, diabetes takes its toll on the body, affecting the eyes, liver, heart, circulatory system, etc. It's not a pretty picture.
Luckily, through efforts of single-minded organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the likelihood of finding a cure during my child's lifetime is extremely high. Several promising therapies are coming closer to fruition -- from a "closed-loop" artificial pancreas that senses insulin needs and dispenses the hormone without human interaction, to targeted transplants of insulin-producing islet cells without the need for dangerous anti-rejection drugs.
The House and Senate have caught the excitement from their constituents over the closeness of a cure. In a rare show of bipartisan support, Senators Dorgan (D-ND) and Domenici (R-NM) have introduced a bill to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program. This past week, Representatives DeGette (D-CO) and Kildee (D-MI) introduced the House companion bill. These bills will extend the Special Diabetes Program for five years and increase funding from $150 million per year for type 1 diabetes research to $200 million per year.
Despite the tremendous support for the bill, JDRF is urging voters to contact their representatives this week to ask for their vote in favor of S.1494 in the Senate and H.R. 2762 in the House. To make it easy, JDRF has set up a Web page that will automatically e-mail your legislators and ask for their vote. It takes only a minute, and could help millions lead longer, healthier and happier lives.
To learn more about our family's efforts to help find a cure for juvenile diabetes, please visit www.AaronsAteam.com or watch the video.