Diabetes researchers battle the fastest growing global epidemic of the 21st century

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Mount Sinai Hospital’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute is ranked #1 world-wide for diabetes research compared to other medical research institutes. That is why, on June 17, 2013, Mount Sinai hosted top diabetes researchers from around the world at the 2013 International Frontiers in Diabetes Research symposium. Here, leading researchers shared their latest breakthroughs in diabetes research that have the potential to transform care for more than 250 million patients worldwide suffering from this spiralling epidemic.

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, more than 20 people are newly diagnosed with the disease every hour of every day in Canada alone. Mount Sinai researchers and clinicians are working with their colleagues around the world toward an increased global understanding of this chronic disease so that patients can better manage and control this disease. Ideally, researchers are looking for ways to prevent diabetes before it even starts – but once it does, researchers are striving to halt the disease in its early stages.

Mount Sinai researchers made news headlines last year around a new treatment which involved having non-insulin-dependent, type 2 diabetics take four shots of carefully-dosed insulin per day for one month, allowing patients to achieve a temporary remission. Now, researchers are looking to halt diabetes permanently, similar to how cancers can be forced into permanent remission.

Recently, a new trial launched at Mount Sinai Hospital aims to demonstrate that when introduced early in the course of disease, treatment with short-term insulin therapy for two to three weeks can actually help restore the body’s ability to make and respond to insulin, the two key deficits that cause diabetes, and even reverse the disease.

Called RESET IT (Remission Studies Evaluating Type 2 Diabetes – Intermittent Insulin Therapy), the new clinical study will potentially impact future therapy guidelines for the course of treatment typically prescribed to diabetes patients. The study is led by Dr. Ravi Retnakaran, Endocrinologist at Mount Sinai’s Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes and an Associate Scientist with Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute.

Currently, insulin therapy is usually the last option in the course of treatment for patients, by which point in the disease the beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin, have worsened beyond repair. The new study hypothesizes that patients should be treated earlier with insulin for a short period of time in order to preserve the function of beta cells and thus alter the normal progression of the disease.

“Traditionally, by the time the patient is prescribed insulin therapy to treat diabetes, it`s too late to reverse the disease process,” explains Dr. Ravi Retnakaran. “When we treat patients temporarily with intensive insulin therapy for three weeks early in the course of disease, it is possible to improve the ability of the body to make and use its own insulin.”

At the recent June 17 diabetes symposium at Mount Sinai Hospital, experts from other leading diabetes research institutions such as Harvard Medical School, Yale University School of Medicine, and the Universities of Texas and Cincinnati, presented their latest breakthroughs in basic diabetes biology as well as new therapies and treatments in hopes of curbing this growing 21st century epidemic.