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Diabetes is a complicated disease that comes in multiple forms and affects people of all ages. All diabetics have one thing in common — their bodies have difficulty processing glucose into energy. Insulin is the key substance that helps cells transform glucose into energy that the body can use. If insulin is not produced, or if the body ignores it, glucose levels build and cause potentially life-threatening problems.
According to a report compiled by the American Diabetes Association , the CDC , and the NIH , 25.8 million people in the U.S. are affected by diabetes, and millions more may have early symptoms or are unaware that they have it. Diabetes is the nation's leading cause of heart disease and stroke, kidney failure, and more. It costs the U.S. more than $174 billion annually in medical costs and associated costs.
Dr. Cras-Méneur is part of a team led by Dr. Ernesto Bernal-Mizrachi, M.D., that has the ultimate goal of freeing insulin-dependent diabetics of the need for daily insulin injections to control glucose levels. He will be helping this team of researchers to attain a more complete understanding of how high blood glucose levels can damage special cells in the pancreas called beta cells.
Beta cells are incredibly important. Although they make up just 1-2% of the pancreas, beta cells are solely responsible for producing insulin. These specialized cells are produced only during the first 15-20 years of a person's life. Beta cells age with us after that, with a natural decline in their ability to adapt to high levels of glucose in the blood.
The team Dr. Cras-Méneur is working on hopes to learn how to modify other cells in the pancreas to produce insulin. These exciting studies may help develop novel drugs to help people with insulin-dependent diabetes better regulate their glucose levels, or even achieve insulin independence.