In general, “remission” in diabetes means a person’s blood sugar levels remain normal. While some refer to this as a “cure,” diabetes is not a “one and done,” disease. That is, it could always return if the patient regains the weight or returns to unhealthy habits. In 2009, a group of diabetes experts wrote that “remission” is a term used when a person has normal blood sugar levels for one year without therapy or surgery.
Stem cell research has also been suggested as a potential avenue for a cure since it may permit regrowth of Islet cells which are genetically part of the treated individual, thus perhaps eliminating the need for immuno-suppressants. This new method autologous nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation was developed by a research team composed by Brazilian and American scientists (Dr. Julio Voltarelli, Dr. Carlos Eduardo Couri, Dr Richard Burt, and colleagues) and it was the first study to use stem cell therapy in human diabetes mellitus This was initially tested in mice and in 2007 there was the first publication of stem cell therapy to treat this form of diabetes. Until 2009, there was 23 patients included and followed for a mean period of 29.8 months (ranging from 7 to 58 months). In the trial, severe immunosuppression with high doses of cyclophosphamide and anti-thymocyte globulin is used with the aim of "turning off" the immunologic system", and then autologous hematopoietic stem cells are reinfused to regenerate a new one. In summary it is a kind of "immunologic reset" that blocks the autoimmune attack against residual pancreatic insulin-producing cells. Until December 2009, 12 patients remained continuously insulin-free for periods ranging from 14 to 52 months and 8 patients became transiently insulin-free for periods ranging from 6 to 47 months. Of these last 8 patients, 2 became insulin-free again after the use of sitagliptin, a DPP-4 inhibitor approved only to treat type 2 diabetic patients and this is also the first study to document the use and complete insulin-independendce in humans with type 1 diabetes with this medication. In parallel with insulin suspension, indirect measures of endogenous insulin secretion revealed that it significantly increased in the whole group of patients, regardless the need of daily exogenous insulin use.
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is a syndrome in which a person's blood sugar is dangerously low. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk for this condition. There are other diseases that can cause a person's blood sugar levels to go too low, for example, pancreatitis, Cushing's syndrome, and pancreatic cancer. Symptoms and signs that your blood sugar levels are too low include:
Implementing integrative and functional medical nutrition therapy, I helped the patient understand that she could reverse the trajectory she was on by making lifestyle changes—and that’s what she did. We engaged in shared decision making in our ongoing nutrition consultations. Over the course of one year, her physiology and health status changed for the better. Her A1c dropped from 7.2% to 5.6%, and she no longer required medications. She continues to adhere to her new lifestyle program and is confident she’ll remain free of a diabetes diagnosis.
Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.