All That Glitters is Not...Diamond
Success in diabetes research fraught with failure
Several months ago, while walking my dog, I spotted something shiny at the foot of a metal bench. I pushed back the dirt and pulled out a large emerald-shaped diamond earring in a silver-colored setting. I quickly taped a note on the bench with my phone number then placed the earring inside the fanny pack I wear when my Schnauzer Zoe and I take our morning strolls. No one ever called.
Weeks went by and my curiosity began to grow. Was it real? I live in Miami Beach where celebrities and other wealthy folk do wear expensive jewelry to parks, beaches, and other mundane locations. I'm not much of a jewelry person, but I suddenly had to have this sparkling gem; it really was stunning. I showed the earring to several friends who also became excited. They urged me to take it to an expert and learn its real value.
So, I brought it to a local gemologist who reviewed it and gave me the bad news – it was glass. No diamond, no gift from the heavens, just a fancy bit of glass. My heart sunk.
We in the diabetes world come across many things that glitter but are only glass. Our long-awaited inhaled insulin is now linked to cancer. Blood glucose meters that don't require blood appear on the market then quickly disappear. Every time we believe we have a diamond, we discover that it is only a bit of glass.
I recently read an article about the painstaking research process in "My TCOYD Newsletter" the official publication of Taking Control of Your Diabetes, a terrific educational organization founded by endocrinologist Steven V. Edelman, MD. In the article, Dr. Alain Baron, Senior Vice President of Research at Amylin Pharmaceuticals says, "From the time you discover a molecule to the time you market it – that takes about 12 to 14 years on average, and about 1.4 billion dollars." Pretty depressing, but despite the long and costly road that new diabetes approaches must take, we do have a rich variety of recent medical breakthroughs such as the Novolog, Humalog and Apidra insulins and injected medications like Byetta and Symlin.
And things are moving along. Byetta will be out in a once-a-week version that promises to make a huge difference in the lives of many individuals. Continuous glucose monitors are becoming more commonplace, and pumps, such as the Omnipod, are being developed without tubing. Small steps, but glittery diamonds nonetheless.
It takes centuries for Mother Nature to create a true diamond. And when we get a hold of a genuine stone, it is precious indeed. It is hard to be patient, but developments are happening and will continue to enrich our lives and improve diabetes control.
I'm trying to teach Zoe to sniff for real diamonds. She prefers the scent of squirrels, birds, and other creatures, so we have a long way to go, but with a little hope and patience, perhaps we'll get there.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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Most of the time, we bash the lastest news about a "diabetes cure" because it is neither a cure, nor often even a significant improvement in diabetes treatment. Usually these "cures" are tested in mice, but fail to make the leap over to human physiology. Devices may work in the lab, but take decades to pass through FDA review, and still not be much better than what we already have. It's enough to make us all jaded. I know I am. But I saw something...