Researcher Finds ‘Functional Cure’ For Type 1 Diabetes

CHICAGO (WBBM) – There’s a breakthrough to report in diabetes research.  A researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago will report later today that five years of clinical trials have resulted in what he calls a “functional cure” for Type 1 diabetes.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser Reports

Sandy Alvord of Des Plaines is one of the participants in the trial.

She’s had Type 1 diabetes since she was six years old. She’s 51 now and has been off insulin for a year and a half.

“Functionally I’m cured, to the point where I’m not taking any medication whatsoever for diabetes.”

It’s the first time she’s been able to do that since she was diagnosed as a child.

“Since I was a six-year-old and taking injections and having to follow a stringent diet.”

Alvord had what’s called islet transplantation. Basically, that involves the injection of human pancreas cells.

The islets of Langerhans are the regions of the pancreas that contain its hormone-producing cells. Insulin is a hormone. It is critical in regulating energy and glucose metabolism in the body.

Dr. Jose Oberholzer, at UIC, led the research. He’s cautious not to call this a cure. Instead, he calls it a “functional cure.” Alvord will have to continue taking an anti-rejection medicine.

“She’ll have to take them as long as the transplant works, hopefully for the rest of her life,” the physician told CBS 2’s Jim Williams.

Still, he says, the treatment might allow millions of Type 1 diabetics to discard insulin injections.

One hurdle, he says, is overcoming a shortage of transplantable cells.

More from Mike Krauser
  • Mary Register

    Very exciting news! How do I get more information for my 28 yr old Type I diabetic son? He was diagnosed at age 14.

  • Ed K

    This is very good news– when will there be more information released about this study–

  • Renee Bergin

    This is GREAT news!!!! There is hope for my 9 year old daughter that has had type 1 since the age of 5. Please keep posting any new info regarding this.

  • KEN C

    great way to start the day. my son is 3 years old and was diagnosed at 2years old! to watch his story

  • saad

    Great news. I am wondering if there is any good news for Type 2 diabetics like this. Any info so far?

  • langerhans

    islet transplant has been an effective cure for type I diabetes for over 10 years, this isn’t new news.

  • Khoury

    Islet transplant has been there for 10 years maybe, patients needed to get islet from multiple cadavers (i.e. they needed to get multiple transplantations!!). CDP’s is to decrease the number of transplantation/patient, and they have been successful bringing it down to 1:1 in some of their patients. Also, a long time ago, many patients were not completely insulin free after the transplant. Now the outcomes are improving!

  • Lyn Gray

    My grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last year at age 5. He is now wearing a pump. The last comment mentioned is the shortage of transplantable cells. Could you please give more information about the transplantable cells? Do they only come from cadavers, or can some of them be harvested from someone living? Are there age, gender, or relationship involved?

  • JP

    This article is borderline irresponsible. It’s so incomplete that it simply comes off as a headline grabber. There’s no mention of anti-rejection medication, number of ‘refills’ needed to maintain insulin independence, source of beta cells (we can assume they are from cadavers) and etc. Please provide a more comprehensive and in-depth report rather than a headline. What you have reported has been around for years and there’s nothing new here that hasn’t been extolled by the JDRF or ADA. LCT Technologies, Geron Corp., SmartCells Inc., The Faustman Lab are all working on some groundbreaking technologies with respect to cell encapsulation, unlimited beta cell lines, and possibly using TB drugs to cure/treat Type 1.

  • Jason Belgin

    Living with this illness for 24 years. We have been told cures are just around the corner within 5 years line forever now. I hope this is not just another empty article like the rest. Agreed with the above there needs to be more elaboration on this topic not a three paragraph type up about old news.

  • Mikey J.

    I haven’t read anything new here. This type of treatment has been working for years, as I recall, with a huge asterisk.

    First, there was the fact that two doners pancreatic cadavers were required to farm the necessary insulin cells to “take” in a type 1 diabetic’s body.

    Second, the problems with anti-rejection medication were almost as large as diabetes itself. It was a shell game where the “cure” was almost as bad as the disease.

    Instead of taking insulin, you’re taking medication so your bodies white-blood cells don’t attack the foreign insulin cells. The host’s body then adapts to that medication and so other anti-rejection medications are required. Or some combination of them.

    Then there was the fact that when taking anti-rejection medication, one’s body’s is then suseptable to forign invaders now given the green light to enter your body from the anti-rejection medication.

    One can argue that Diabetes is the greater of two evils, but it seems like a narrow margin to me. Calling this a cure without this information is pretty rediculous. This can’t ever be done on a large scale so long as doners are required or processes aren’t improved.

    Perhaps they’ve improved both of these problems, I’d like to know more, but this doesn’t sound like anything new. Now, if they could fix the gene causing the body to attack it’s own insulin cells (which they have identified) using ones own stem cells, well, then we’d really be onto something.

    • Suzi Johnson

      As both a Type I Diabetic and an Islet Cell Transplant recipient, I can testify that the effects of insulin far out way the effects of anti-rejection meds. I suffered daily hypoglycemia episodes while taking insulin never knowing if today would be the day I would not wake up. The anti-rejection medication causes me to be more caution about shaking hands or touching door knobs, and perhaps having one or two more colds per year, but it does not even compare to the effects of insulin. I am functionally cured and am blessed to have been chosen for the transplant.

      • jack meyers

        i like the idea of this treatment and i hve been Diabetic with insulin for 33 years>> I would like more information also on the islet Transplant reciplant!!!

  • Brenda

    This doctor is affiliated with the Chicago Diabetes Project. To learn more, including how to support this privately funded research or to participate in clinical trials, visit

  • romaniansam

    Anti-rejection medication side effects have been minimal . . . diabetic hypoglycemia unawareness (inability to sense dangerously low blood sugars) were serious, dangerous and life-threatening repeatedly to me and my family. No comparison!

  • Rhonda Altman

    I have two childern with type one diabetes, one diagnosed at 14 months the other at 15 months. The problem becomes what damage will the anti-rejection drugs cause after long term use.

  • langerhans

    This treatment isn’t prescribed for individuals with controllable diabetes, it is meant for those that the side effects ofthe anti regection medication is less severe then the possible kidney failure/blindness or those that can no longer sense hypoglycemic events.

  • Linda E

    Exciting news! Where can I find out more information on this. My best friend has suffered since he was 8 years old. He is now 61 and really needs help. My husband became insulin dependent 5 years ago. Both have difficulties managing their blood surgar with insulin. We are all thrilled to see a breakthrough.

  • taslade

    How is this different from other research doing the same transplantation and needing to use the antirejection medications? I want to hear it’s an improvement from what they’ve talked about in the years previously. What’s the difference?



  • Ravi Cadambi


  • frankie

    The pharmaceutical will not let the cure happen! There are too much profit from supplies.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live