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Insulin Pills Studied as Possible Way to Prevent or Delay Juvenile Diabetes


November 14th marks the United Nation's first World Diabetes Day. It is meant to be an indicator of how serious diabetes has become. World Health Organization statistics show that more than 180 million people worldwide have diabetes and that number is likely to double in the next 20 years. Researchers participating in an international clinical study want to see if a daily insulin pill can prevent or delay the disease in some people. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

Members of the Gould family are more familiar with diabetes than they would like to be. At every meal, 15-year-old Patrick has to test his blood sugar.

Dave and Ellen Gould have two other children with diabetes. Dave says, "There's not a day off from this. It's not like we can get up one day and say, we're going to take a day off from diabetes."

Ellen adds, "I mean, we have to think about it."

There's eight year old Sarah and 12-year-old Sam.

Dave says, "I just can't imagine that we could end up with another child that would have a likelihood of getting this disease."

The five other Gould children were tested to see if they had the antibodies that indicate a strong chance of developing the disease. Three-year-old Oliver tested positive. He is now enrolled in a test to see if taking oral insulin in a pill might keep him from developing diabetes, or at least delaying it.

Type one diabetes has a genetic component and tends to run in families. With type one diabetes, the body's immune system destroys the insulin producing cells.

Without these cells, the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.

The disease can be life threatening. And it never goes away. More than 150 medical centers in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia are involved in the research. Dr. William Russell is one of the researchers.

Dr. Russell explains, "If we are able to prevent diabetes from developing in someone, we've saved them from a lifetime of injections, and blood tests, and potential complications."

In this experiment, some of the children receive an insulin pill. Others get a placebo. None of the families involved know which pill their child is getting.

Dave says, "There's really no risk to Oliver in doing this."

Ellen is hopeful, "Maybe we will be part of the solution."

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