Inhaling Insulin

More than 100,000 children and young adults live with type 1 diabetes. Their bodies do not produce the insulin needed to process sugar in the diet. Without daily shots of insulin and a strict diet, they could die. Today there is new hope that could free diabetics from those dreaded, daily injections.

“When I talk to young adults or even older adults who’ve had diabetes for 10, 20, 30 years, I’ve asked them, what’s the hardest part about diabetes, and they say, ‘It’s the shots’,” says Dr. Clarke, pediatric endocrinologist.

Now 11-year-old Nathaniel, and thousands of other type 1 diabetics like him may be able to skip the multiple daily shots. Instead, they may be able to inhale their insulin.

“My arms would get sore all the time,” says Nathaniel. “But with this new inhaler, it’s so much easier, so much better. It’s not as complicated to do and it’s quicker.”

Nathaniel simply presses a button to puncture a packet of powdered insulin. A chamber fills with powder, and Nathaniel turns the top to inhale.

“It allows him to go sleep over at friends’ houses, so when he wakes up in the morning, he can inhale his insulin and there’s no problem,” says Nathaniel’s mom, Ruth. “He can manage it himself.”

It also gives Nathaniel the power to manage his meals. Usually, diabetes requires eating on a fixed schedule. With the inhaler, he can eat more of what he wants when he wants and simply adjust the dose throughout the day.

“People who take inhaled insulin still have to take one injection of a very long-acting insulin each day,” says Dr. Clarke. “But then they’re free to adjust their insulin based on what they’re going to do.”

Nathaniel says the only thing better will be the discovery that does away with all shots for diabetics. The insulin inhaler is being tested in 20 medical centers nationwide.

Source: Ivanhoe News April 2001

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