Diabetes, Et Cetera

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Translating Science for the Public

“A sign rests on the windowsill in the office of Jeffrey Bluestone, director of the Immune Tolerance Network and the Diabetes Center at the University of California at San Francisco. Measuring nearly three feet across, it reads “Club Bluestone” in pink and blue neon. It’s the sort of artifact you’d expect to find in a bar. But Bluestone is a world-renowned immunobiologist; his father-in-law had the sign made for him in the late 1980s when Bluestone was working long hours in his lab at the University of Chicago. As the night wore on and their energy faded, he and his colleagues would turn out the lights, turn on the sign and, propelled by the power of Bruce Springsteen, push forward with their research.”

As you likely already know, auto-immune diseases like Type 1 diabetes or multiple sclerosis occur when your immune system  mistakes part of your own body for a foreign invader. In the case of Type 1, it’s when your body decides to kill off the cells that produce insulin, a hormone necessary to absorb the energy in your food. I think I speak for all Type 1 diabetics when I say that destroying these cells is not the body’s smartest move.

I was lucky enough to participate in a trial for a promising new drug, an anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody called teplizumab, that attempted to stop my system from killing off the rest of my insulin-producing cells. I wrote about the drug — and others like it — for Popular Science. The article, “Rebooting the Body,” is intended to make a complex subject comprehensible to the general public.