WASHINGTON — A cure for Type 1 diabetes could be discovered “within two decades”, an expert told the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus on Wednesday.
Boston University Assistant Professor Arturo Vegas acknowledged that the time frame depends greatly on the meaning of “cure” but was optimistic that a way to restore completely normal function to those with Type 1 diabetes will be found. The disease affects 3 million Americans.
“I’m fairly confident this could happen in my lifetime,” said Vegas. “Certainly by the time of our children.”
Two weeks ago Medtronic won approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its continuous glucose monitor that automatically injects patients with the proper insulin levels.
“It sounds great but it’s a version 1.0 device,” said Vegas. “Do we always hit a home run the first time around? I would like to think so but realistically no. It needs iterations and improvements.”
Despite advances in disease management, autoimmune reversal – reversing the root causes of diabetes in Type 1 patients – remains the greatest challenge, he said.
The hour-long briefing was attended by a bipartisan group of congressional staffers while Congress is in recess until after the election. Vegas spent the majority of his presentation reviewing his research on implanted devices. He ended with a pitch for continued funding of the biomedical sciences.
While the cause of Type 1 diabetes is not entirely known, certain genetic markers can indicate as much as a 50 percent likelihood that a person carries the disease. More than 29 million Americans in 2014 had either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.