If you’re diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you have to inject insulin every day simply to stay alive.
It typically strikes in childhood or early adulthood. There’s no way to avoid it. A child diagnosed with the condition aged five faces 19,000 insulin injections and 50,000 finger prick blood tests before they turn 18.
So it sure is a demanding condition to live with. It needs attention day and night. But that hasn’t stopped some celebrated mavericks enjoying immense success while living with the condition. In sport, politics, music and other walks of life, people with type 1 diabetes do their finger-prick blood tests, shoot their insulin, and take on the world.
At JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charity, our mission is to find the cure for the condition by supporting the best type 1 diabetes research in the world.
You may have a vision in your mind of the maverick genius scientist, hunched alone in his lab over a petri dish. But the story of type 1 diabetes medical breakthroughs is a story of teams, not lone mavericks, making the difference.
In the early 20th century, scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best, along with other collaborators and supporters including John Macleod, teamed up to find a treatment for the condition.
Everyone who ever developed type 1 diabetes had died within a number of weeks. But through close collaboration, Banting and company began pushing back the boundaries of knowledge of the human pancreas. Their confidence grew that its failure to produce insulin was key to the condition. They isolated and collected animal insulin as a potential treatment.
On January 11, 1922, teenager Leonard Thompson was lying in a hospital bed, dying of type 1 diabetes. He was the first ever person to receive insulin injections as treatment. It worked. He got better. Thanks to Banting’s team, he became the first person to live with the disease instead of swiftly succumbing to it. Millions after him did the same. The discovery of insulin as a treatment stands as one of the most stunning breakthroughs in the history of medical science.
Further talented research teams have given us further breakthroughs. Recent decades have seen the arrival of small injection pens, insulin pumps and other treatment devices that make life so much easier for those with the condition. JDRF is supporting teams of scientists as they work to perfect the artificial pancreas, which is in advanced human trials and which promises to transform lives affected by type 1 diabetes.
At JDRF we’re currently collaborating as a team with Indigo as we work to highlight the need for Scotland to lead the global fight against type 1 diabetes. After all, the country has one of the highest rates of incidence in the world. But it also has 19 universities and a wealth of experience in the life science and biotech sectors. We can accelerate the path towards the discovery of new treatments – and one day the cure – if we can further improve Scotland’s research infrastructure which would allow even more teamwork to flourish.
Together, as one team, we’ll find the cure to type 1 diabetes.
Michael Connellan is Acting Head of Media & Public Affairs at type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.
See the type 1 pledge for Scotland: www.jdrf.org.uk/type1pledge
This month voters in the UK will go to the polls to decide whether we, as a country, prefer to stand alone outside the European or continue to try to lead the international agenda from within it.
In the run-up to the referendum we will be posting a series of blogs, client stories and interviews from across Indigo’s networks, taking a sideways look at whether we can balance the advantages of strong networks against the freedom to stand out from the crowd.