One of the holy grails of medical research is finding a cure for diabetes, especially type 2, which afflicts the vast majority of those with the disease. People with diabetes have elevated blood glucose levels because the beta cells in their pancreas have stopped producing insulin or produce too little. The disease usually is activated in people who are obese because they develop what is called insulin resistance, meaning that their blood glucose is not being converted into energy fast enough. The result is that often the beta cells get damaged, causing a vicious cycle.
Mathematics professor Richard Bertram at Florida State University is delving into ways to revive the dormant beta cells in people with type 2 diabetes and get them producing insulin again. Bertram is using math models in combination with a medical device called a microfluid device to deliver precise amounts of blood glucose to beta cells from mice with the exact rhythm that a healthy body uses. The idea is that this treatment will reactivate the dead or dormant cells and get them to start producing insulin again.
The results, so far, seem promising. The key has been using math to calculate the exact amounts of blood glucose at the correct rhythm to jump-start the production of natural insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease. But one can see the day when Bertram’s technique, perhaps combined with a weight reduction regimen, could effect a cure of a disease that afflicts 27 million Americans with all of the potential complications that it brings.
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