IRVINE — A bead of sweat trickles down Jonathan Lakey’s
Lakey, a UCI physician and pioneering diabetes researcher, isn’t
nervous. But he’s just finished a run and a shower and, as he
sits in his office at the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research
Center, he’s hustling to keep up with a demanding schedule.
The 48-year-old Canadian is a busy man. He’s director of research
at UCI’s Dept. of Surgery. He’s a key player in a potentially
historic race — to cure type 1 diabetes.
And, oh yeah, he’s in a documentary.
The movie has a really scary villain.
In the United States alone, type 1 diabetes kills or helps to
kill some 231,000 people. Americans spend about $220 billion a
year trying to keep it at bay.
Type 1 diabetes is common and growing and little understood, and
it’s life-changing for people who have it as well as for their
It’s also been key to Lakey’s career.
Ten years ago, he was as close to famous as medical researchers
get these days, known as co-founder of the Edmonton Protocol in
Canada. He and others were working on what seemed to be a
potential cure for type 1 diabetes, but the work ultimately fell
short because patients were given anti-rejection drugs that
Now, relocated at UCI, Lakey and other scientists are optimistic
that a cure soon could come in the form of the Islet Sheet — a
device that looks like a transparent business card.
The removable sheet, which the body doesn’t recognize as foreign
(hence no need for anti-rejection drugs), is aimed at stabilizing
the patient’s glucose levels. Studies on animals are expected to
begin next year, with clinical trials in humans to follow in the
U.S. or the United Kingdom, pending the outcome of the animal
“There have been significant advances (in diabetes treatment)
over the years, and this can be a significant advancement toward
a cure,” a cautious Lakey says of the Islet Sheet.
As Lakey speaks, the documentary’s executive producer, Greer
Wylder, a Costa Mesa mother, listens intently, her eyes filled
with an unmistakable expression.
He was drinking incessantly — water, milk, juice, anything he
could get his hands on — and urinating a lot.
He complained about blurry vision.
Wylder, 46, recalls when she took her son, Tristan, then 14, to
The stunning diagnosis: type 1 diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes cannot, on their own, produce
insulin, which is needed to break down glucose — or sugar —
found in food. A type 1 diabetic’s own cells attack and kill
insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin, since its
discovery in 1921, has been used to treat people with type 1
diabetes. It can minimize the symptoms, but it can’t cure them.
Since that shocking diagnosis six years ago, Wylder’s son —
strong and healthy on the outside — has been enduring a daily
regimen of poking his fingertips with a needle to check his blood
up to 10 times, and injecting himself with insulin up to a
For a person with type 1 diabetes like Tristan, now 20 and living
away at college, having a high level of blood sugar for too long
will thicken the blood. This can lead to kidney failure,
blindness, heart disease, stroke and infections that can lead to
If a type 1 diabetic’s blood sugar plunges too low, he or she can
have seizures, fall into unconsciousness or even die.
Wylder sleeps with her cellphone beside her pillow. She knows
that for a diabetic, sleeping can be the most dangerous time.
Every night, she fears getting an emergency phone call — or
Article source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45360816