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Modern Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine - Diabetes Mellitus 

Diabetes in the year 2010 - what will the future bring? 

Although there are no definitive preventative measures that can be taken against diabetes at this time, except for identifying persons at high risk and encouraging appropriate dietary and exercise guidelines, research into the causes and control of this disease continues to provide the possibility of new cures. With the discovery of insulin in the 1920's and the development of oral hypoglycaemic drugs in the 1950's, a person who has diabetes can live an active and productive life. The importance of early detection and proper management of this chronic disease cannot, however, be emphasized too strongly. 

The therapy of insulin-dependent diabetes will surely be altered dramatically over the next few decades. One can project that there will be improved strategies for glucose control in established IDDM. This will include the widespread use of mechanical devices, which will involve both implantable glucose sensors and implantable insulin infusion systems; and successful pancreas, islet or beta cell transplantation, in the absence of the need of immunosuppressive therapy to prevent rejection. 

An inhaled form of insulin, under development for several years, appears to be ready for wide scale application by the year 2000. Recent studies conducted at the Universities of Miami and Vermont involving Type I and Type II patients demonstrated that inhaled insulin is at least as effective as injected insulin in controlling the symptoms of diabetes and has no side effects. The delivery system, whereby a finely powdered form of insulin is inhaled directly into the lungs, promises to greatly simplify management of both forms of diabetes. Powdered insulin requires no refrigeration and since it is absorbed into the bloodstream though the lungs, there will generally be no need for hypodermic needles. Type I patients will still require an injection of slow-acting insulin at bedtime. In the future it may also be possible to administer insulin in the form of a pill or patch. All of these advances will change the face of diabetes, as we know it. 

Moreover, we will see the application of immune intervention strategies at the time of onset of IDDM, with the reversal of the disease process. Ultimately, these strategies will be applied earlier in the sequence during a stage that we do not yet recognize as clinical diabetes. In these individuals otherwise destined to develop IDDM, the disease will be prevented. 

(Article by Clinton J. Choate, published in Journal of Chinese Medicine, No. 58, September 1998)

Clinton J. Choate, L.Ac. graduated from from Emperor's College in 1989 and spent 6 months in a post-graduate internship program for foreign students he helped develop at Shu Guang Hospital in Shanghai. He has a Masters of Oriental Medicine degree (M.O.M.) and practices acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in Santa Monica, California.

 
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