Reported January 5, 2007
Breakthrough Discovery for Type 1 Diabetes

Breakthrough Discovery for Type 1 Diabetes CHICAGO (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- When Lilly Jaffe entered the world, her parents couldn't have been happier. "We were beyond excited," her mother Laurie recalls. But that joy quickly turned to panic. Lilly was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was just 1 month old.

Michael Jaffe, Lilly's father, says, "It was just so sad to see ... and scary."

For six years, Lilly was poked and prodded ... blood sugar checks 10 times a day and insulin to keep her alive. Constantly in a state of high alert, her parents watched every mouth of food she ate. But a breakthrough discovery changed everything. Doctors diagnosed Lilly with a rare, genetic form of diabetes. Instead of insulin, she now takes this pill twice a day.

Breakthrough Discovery for Type 1 Diabetes Type 1 diabetes is a disease that children and young adults are typically diagnosed with. It happens when the body stops producing insulin, a hormone needed to regulate blood sugar. But Endocrinologist Louis Philipson, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Chicago Medical Center says up to 2,000 patients in the United States who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may actually have the form of the disease Lilly has.

"It is life changing," Dr. Philipson says. "It's hard to imagine anything more profound than to take a child and convert them from insulin to pills."

Patients like Lilly carry a gene that allows too much potassium to leave their pancreas cells. Drugs called sulfonylureas increase the amount of potassium, so patients can produce insulin on their own. But so far, doctors have found only children diagnosed before they are 6 months old actually carry the gene. People who are diagnosed after 6 months of age do not carry the same gene as Lilly, so this treatment would not work for them.

Breakthrough Discovery for Type 1 Diabetes The discovery allowed Lilly to get rid of her insulin shots. She still checks her blood sugar, but she does it just two times a day, instead of 10.

"She is a new child. She, for the first time in her life, knows what it is like to be a normal child, and it's wonderful," Laurie says. Michael adds, "This huge weight was lifted off our lives."

Lilly's happy, too! She says, "Everyone doesn't have to stop me from eating." Now she can focus on just being a kid.

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    University of Chicago Medical Center
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