On World Diabetes Day, a look to the past — and the future

November 14, 2012 | by

World Diabetes Day logoOn World Diabetes Day, consider both the breakthroughs already made – and the ones yet to come.

  • 1949 - Discovery of metabolic effects of insulin
  • 1968 - Identifying the role of Hb-A1c in diabetes management
  • 1978 - First engineering of human insulin in the laboratory
  • 1982 - Isolation of specific cell proteins that join with insulin and mediate its metabolic effects

All of these were accomplished by researchers affiliated with City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. Today the work to end diabetes continues.

The Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism is currently leading a multicenter islet cell transplantation trial among nine academic institutions. Other researchers are advancing the world’s knowledge of islet generation, immune tolerance induction and molecular mechanisms of diabetes complications -- as well as new treatments for diabetes complications.

Says Dr. Fouad Kandeel, director of the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at City of Hope:

“The greatest advancement I’d like to see in Type 1 diabetes is elimination of the disease, and this will happen through being able to control cell biology and cell immunology. Cell immunology advancements will alleviate the recognition of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas as being foreign, which will stop the immune system from attacking them. This work hopefully will reach application in humans over the next couple of years.”

Dr. Kandeel oversees the clinical and research programs in diabetes at City of Hope. Currently, he is the principal investigator on the multi-center islet transplantation alone trial to determine the safety and efficacy of islet cell transplantation as a treatment for Type 1 diabetes.

In addition, Dr. Kandeel recently concluded a clinical project to identify genes related to the development of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the Hispanic population. Due to his strong background in endocrine tumors and thyroid cancer, Dr. Kandeel also participates in the development of the national guidelines for the management of neuroendocrine tumors and thyroid cancer.

“The focus on cell biology means that we can now create insulin-producing cells in the lab,” Dr. Kandeel says. “The hope is that one day we will be able to take a few cells from any human being and transform them into insulin-producing cells that can be used therapeutically. Through the ongoing efforts at City of Hope, we hope to accomplish these objectives in the next few years.”