Reason for Hope

I'm a bit behind in posting for March 29, which marked four months on this project.  A good part of the delay was brought about by a hard-drive crash on the evening of March 17 (the fact that it was St. Patrick's day is purely coincidental!)  My computer's now repaired, so it's all systems go from here on out!

In this post, I wanted to share the hope and expectation I felt after leaving the "Infosium" in Edmonton on March 16.  

JDRF approaches its research on three fronts:

  • Finding a cure for Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1);
  • Finding treatments to improve the lives of those living with TID; and
  • Finding ways to prevent the disease in the first place.

The speaker at this year's "Infosium" was Dr. Paul Fernyhough, who has come from the UK to work at the University of Manitoba in the area of neuropathy.  That is, he's working to understand how T1D affects the body's nervous system, effectively "killing" the nerve endings and resulting in inability to feel temperature and exernal sources of pain, in producing painful sensations in limbs, and in slow deterioration of internal functions such as swallowing, digestion, etc. 

In his presentation, Dr. Fernyhough talked about research in general, and about his work in particular.  He explained the process by which pharmaceuticals are discovered, developed and brought to market (or not).  Starting from scratch can be a very expensive and time-consuming process.  Human clinical trials aren't entered into without careful consideration! 

So...researchers into the treatment of diabetic neuropathy are now looking at "re-purposing" drugs in current use to find out if they are relevant, and they are also looking at rare diseases that also produce neuropathy to see what drugs might work with them.

At present, Dr. Fernyhough is involved with two other scientists -- one in San Diego and one in Toronto -- in developing a medication that acts to regenerate the dendrites (branches that go out from neurons and carry "messages" to and from our nervous system) that are destroyed by T1D.   A company -- Winsantor, Inc. -- has been founded to produce and test the medication -- pirenzepine -- that is their current focus.  This drug has currently being used for the treatment of gastric ulcers.  The fact that it is well known and already used by humans (having been tested for safety) makes it more cost-effective for Dr. Fernyhough and his team to research alternative uses for it -- such as its affect on neurons in T1D patients, and perhaps in cancer patients who suffer nerve damage during/after chemotherapy.

The exciting news is that this drug can be administered topically -- in gel form, on the skin -- and yet it has been found to be absorbed into the circulatory system so that it could travel internally to work on nerve damage that affects the gastrointestinal tract, for example -- as well as working to repair nerve damage in feet and fingers, hands and arms.

Even more exciting is the fact that there is a clinical trial with humans being scheduled for this fall (2014).

When I think of the losses my DH suffered from the damage to his neurons: feeling in his feet (eventual amputation of both legs below the knee); feeling and mobility in his fingers; a general slowing of his entire gastro-intestinal tract, affecting swallowing, digestion and elimination of waste; and loss of sensitivity in his aural canal, resulting in gradual loss of hearing...

I am so thankful for the work of Dr. Paul Fernyhough and his colleagues, funded significantly by JDRF.

A second 'full' hand -- WIP, March 29, 2014

P.S. At the "Infosium" I met Barbara Armstrong, the Regional Manager of JDRF (North-Central Alberta and Northwest Territories); there is a possibility I will be taking "MOB" on the road to meet potential corporate donors in Red Deer in the not-too-distant future.  Meanwhile, the journey continues...

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