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Then & Now: 100 Years Since the Discovery of Insulin, the Cure for Diabetes is Within Reach

Dr. Shapiro and his team continue to work on treatments to lower the risks for patients and create a sustainable cure.

Insulin treatment for diabetes was discovered in Canada. Now Canadian researchers are  on the edge of the next major breakthrough – a cure. Your $22 donation is a big part of that cure. Here’s your chance to be a part of history.

Every three minutes a Canadian is diagnosed with diabetes; you are at greater risk than you realize. Right now, there are ways to manage the symptoms, but no cure. Dr. James Shapiro aims to change that. A grassroots fundraising campaign was launched in 2020 to support Dr. Shapiro and his team’s research. A cure is on the horizon, and you could be a part of it.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes happens when excess sugar is in your blood due to your body’s inability to regulate insulin. Over time, long-term complications can occur including but not limited to: cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, kidney damage, Alzheimer’s, depression, blindness and premature death.

The cause of Type 1 diabetes is not lifestyle related. Your immune system attacks insulin-producing cells, leaving you with a deficiency and the need for constant supplementation and blood sugar monitoring. Type 2 diabetes is thought to be caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors, but it is important to note – not everyone with Type 2 is overweight or fits the “unhealthy lifestyle” mold.

One of the Latest Treatments Was Developed Right Here in Edmonton

Dr. Shapiro made history with the Edmonton Protocol when he and his research team successfully transplanted islet cells from donated human pancreases into the liver of patients with Type 1 diabetes, saving patients from having to inject insulin.

“We have done this procedure more than 700 times,” says Dr. Shapiro, “however, there are risks. Patients require anti-rejection drugs for life and there are not enough donors. Using stem cells, or the patient’s own cells, will get around the need for anti-rejection drugs.”

Dr. Shapiro and his team continue to work on treatments to lower the risks for patients and create a sustainable cure.

“We need funding,” says Dr. Shapiro. “Funding to move forward with the clinical research is the critical next step. Being able to do that will unlock a lot of doors.”

HEADing to 2022 has been a critical part of Dr. Shapiro and his team’s advancements – and it’s all thanks to the generosity of Canadians.

What is HEADing to 2022? How Effective is the Campaign?

HEADing to 2022, a grassroots initiative focused on raising funds for Canadian researchers, is a committee of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, Canada, Inc. (DRIFCan).

Since its launch in 2020, HEADing to 2022 has raised more than $961,000.00 in donations, and more than 97% of the funds have been transferred to the Stem Cell Diabetes Research team at the University of Alberta. The donations have enabled Dr. Shapiro and his team to move into their new lab; hire researchers; and purchase incubators, bioreactors, and an automated cell counter. The development of the cure has been accelerated through donations; human trials are expected within the next 12-24 months.

“It has been 100 years since the Canadian discovery of insulin, but insulin is not a cure,” says Dr. Shapiro. “With the cell transplant treatment developed in Edmonton 20 years ago we ushered in a new era for Canadians. I am proud and excited to move the concept towards a proactive cure. This is an exciting, challenging opportunity and one that the Canadian community can definitely deliver.”

The Canadian Connection and the 100 Year Anniversary

Bernie Moore, HEADing to 2022 committee member, can’t help but marvel at the parallels between then and now when it comes to the upcoming anniversary.

“It’s remarkable! The world was just one year removed from the worst pandemic of the times (Spanish Flu). Frederick Banting and Charles Best had just moved into their new lab and started research. By 1922 they were using insulin in human trials. Now, coming out of another global pandemic (COVID-19), Dr. Shapiro and his team have just moved into their new lab and are working towards human trials for a practical cure  for diabetes.”

“It was important for Canada,” Bernie continues. “Insulin was the biggest medical discovery of the times and the first Nobel Prize for Medicine outside of Europe. Where we are going with the evolution of diabetes treatment 100 years later could be another gift from Canada to the world. History is repeating itself and every Canadian, right now, can be a part of the breakthrough.”

Bernie has done a great deal of research on the history of insulin’s discovery, and he provides a timeline to show the impact over the years.

  • 1894: Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schäfer is the first physiologist to suggest that the pancreatic islets may have an effect on blood sugar.
  • 1918: A global pandemic has shaken the world – a world already imperiled by WWI. At this time Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence, with less than a year’s life expectancy between diagnosis and death.
  • 1921: Banting is the first to isolate islet cell secretions and promote them as a potential diabetes cure. Overseeing the extraction process was John MacLeod, the head of physiology at The University of Toronto. Banting’s assistant, Charles Best, helped refine the process and biochemist James Collip helped purify insulin for clinical use.
  • 1922: Clinical human trials commence.
  • 1923: Banting and Macleod are jointly recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of insulin. Banting was the first non-European recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
  • Now: Thousands of lives have been saved by the discovery and application of insulin. It is hailed as a miracle.
  • 2022: A cure? Dr. Shapiro and his team have significantly built on the prior research and hope to produce a cure for diabetes by 2022. With your donations, the lifesaving cure could permanently remove the need for diabetics to inject inulin.

Please Donate

The goal of HEADing to 2022 is to raise $22 million so Canadian researchers can produce the cure and share it with diabetics worldwide. We’ve come so far in 100 years. Your donation of just $22 will make a world of difference.

“We can reach our goal if one million Canadians each donate $22,” concludes Dr. Shapiro. His final, humble, heartful message is, “Donate. Please.”

Be a part of the cure – and history – by donating today:

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