Monday, April 4, 2011

Type 1 Cured?

Diabetic mice must sleep easy.

There is probably a news article twice a year shouting excitedly about mice being cured of type 1 diabetes. You'd think that diabetic mice would be scampering under laboratory doors to get in on that.

Today's challenge from the Health Activist Writer's Monthly Challenge is to google a ridiculous claim for a cure for your condition and write what you think about it.

Where diabetes and the media are concerned, I'm not even sure where to begin. With the poor little mice who have been chemically altered to have diabetes and then cured of it? The fad diets that promise a cure? The random connections discovered between other diseases & diabetes or other hormones & the pancreas?

Let's go back to the lab critters. I do understand why scientists use rodents in testing. Mice are genetically similar to us, not particularly beloved, and rather cheap (and therefore disposable). I shudder and try not to think of the cruelty that we inflict on animals in the name of research. I hope it's done...humanely.

Banting & Best with a lab dog
I cringe whenever I read how dogs (strays and domestics alike) were sacrificed in the name of insulin research from the 1880s to the 1920s. Somebody's pet went missing so that some researchers could tie off her pancreas and watch her die. That's. Hard. To. Swallow. And her suffering is in every bottle of the hormone that I can't last more than a few hours without taking.

Makes me think of the HeLa cells that were taken from a poor, dying, African American woman without her consent or knowledge and have been duplicated for decades and used in thousands of research studies. How do you justify it? How do you thank her? How do they sleep at night?

I want to hug those dogs. I know what it felt like when my body was dying for insulin. Literally. I know how thirsty and sick they felt.


My point is that I take research very seriously. Animals and people die or are violated in the name of the research that helps us learn more about our conditions. That research helps determine the direction that condition management will go.

And that's why false claims about false cures piss me off. There is no cure for diabetes. If you are selling a book, a diet, a theory, or a blog promising a cure...then you are selling snake oil. You are selling hope to a community of people who need it so badly. Hoping for a cure is harmless. Believing it's just around the corner is, at its worst, only naive. Believing it's here already and that Big Pharma is sitting on it...insanity.

And the worst is the parents out there forcing some kind of crazy diet on their children or telling their kids they'll pray it away and believing their method will work. Putting their innocent kids at risk with their refusal to accept the diagnosis and recommended treatment. Thinking it's working at first because their child is in a honeymoon period for a year or so and didn't need insulin.

What do you say to the loonies out there who treat you as though if you just tried a little harder and cared a little more, that your condition will be cured, too? How do you tell someone to stop barking up a tree with no squirrels?

I think of those mice in those labs a lot. I take the headlines with a grain of salt. With each experiment, a scientist learned something new about a condition that we still don't fully understand. I hope that what we learn from the experimentees can justify what we do to them. For every hormone we learn about, some little mouse had his system jacked with.

My system has been jacked with for years. I thank each of those little mice, each of those innocent dogs, and anyone who participates in the later (safer) human trials. They may or may not bring us closer to a cure (the jury is still out on that one), but the information we glean from their sacrifices helps us understand this mess of a condition.

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