Chicago Based Project Helps Find Cure for Type-1 Diabetes

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Ashmar Mandou

For DePaul Professor Judith Rae-Ross, 70, managing diabetes for over 20 years proved difficult most days as she struggled to compose herself through class teachings. “I remember asking my students a question one day, then feeling the ground underneath me move, and my head began to feel light,” says Rae. “I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes in the late 70s and delved into all the ways to live a healthy life with diabetes, since then. I have eaten the right things, exercised when I could, kept up with my medicine, and somehow nothing seemed to work for me. It became rather challenging living as a diabetic.”

Type-1 diabetes accounts for five to ten out of 100 people who have diabetes. In type-1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body. Without insulin, cells cannot absorb sugar (glucose), which the cells need to produce energy. “I needed to find an alternative because living with diabetes was becoming increasingly difficult,” says Rae. Luckily for Rae, she came across a flyer at work that talked about a relatively new program that that would change her life for the better. “Six years ago I found this flyer posted on the bulletin board about a program called Chicago Diabetes Project so I called them immediately,” says Rae, where she quickly began a new path with Founder and Director of the Chicago Diabetes Project Dr. Jose Oberholzer.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

The Chicago Diabetes Project, based in Chicago at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Services, is a collection of scientists, researchers, physicians and surgeons crossing the globe whose mission is to cure diabetes. “It is exciting to see the strides scientists have made, so far when it comes to diabetes, but we have a long way to go to find a cure,” says Dr. Oberholzer, who worked closely with Rae. “With approved patients, scientists work to make islet cell transplantation a viable treatment option for people with type-1 diabetes. CDP has dedicated itself to create a functional cure for diabetes based on the transplantation of immunoprotected, insulin-producing cells, without the need for long-term medications,” says Dr. Oberholzer.

In 1985 there were 30 million cases of diabetes, today that number has increased to more than 170 million and by 2025, diabetes is likely to affect 300 million people worldwide. “The need for a functional cure is critical. We are performing islet-cell transplants on type-1 diabetic patients as part of a Phase 3 clinical trial being conducted by the Clinical Islet Transplantation Consortium. This trial will bring us one important step closer to making islet-cell transplants standard medical care,” says Dr. Oberholzer. However, Dr. Oberholzer warns not every patient seeking alternative care will be qualified. According to Dr. Oberholzer, prospective patients must be diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, must be between the ages of 18-70 years-old, be healthy, and must have exhausted all other options of alternative medicine. “This trial isn’t for someone who doesn’t feel like taking their insulin shots,” says Dr. Oberholzer. “This trial is for someone who has exhausted all options. Someone who has tried everything to live a healthy and normal life.” Dr. Oberholzer also states there may be side effects. “Nearly 80 percent of our patients were able to eliminate insulin shots from their daily routine, however side effects may include skin conditions, a risk of developing cancer because type-1 diabetes affects the immune system, so the cells are weakened becoming more susceptible to illnesses.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

For Rae living with diabetes is much easier. “Since working with the Chicago Diabetes Project six years ago, I feel like I have my life back on track,” says Rae. “I completely stopped taking my insulin shots. With anything in life, there are risks. Working with the Chicago Diabetes Project was a risk for me, but I had no other option at that point in my life. I had to see what my outcome would be and I am so happy I did.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Chicago Diabetes Project, visit The Chicago Diabetes Project is located at 840 S. Wood St., suite 502 M/C 958. You may also call, 312-413-3011.

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