DENVER, Colo (CBS4)– The American Diabetes Association EXPO is a huge exhibition of the newest treatments and information on Diabetes. This year, we’re celebrating the 90th anniversary of insulin, a discovery that really transformed this disease.

Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It works like a bridge getting blood sugar from the blood stream into the cells.

“In people who have Type 1 Diabetes, it’s like the bridge is out and the sugar in not able to get from the blood stream into the cells of the body,” said Dr. David Maahs with the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes.

90 years ago, children diagnosed with Diabetes commonly slipped into comas and faced certain death.

“In the absence of insulin it was a uniformly fatal disease. And the patients became thinner and thinner and usually died within the course of a year,” Maahs explained.

The cause of diabetes stumped doctors until 1921, researchers at the University of Toronto used extractions from a pancreas to wake up comatose children and eventually to save their lives. Insulin was first harvested from cows and pigs, but over the years it’s become purer, manufactured in a lab to exactly match human insulin.

“I think in the history of medicine, it’s one of the great discoveries,” Maahs said.

This great discovery transformed Diabetes into a manageable condition and new technology allows young patients like Brendan Goettling to live a normal life. Goettling has an insulin pump which automatically administers the hormone to him. He checks is blood sugars throughout the day and adjusts the pump as needed.

“With the pump, I can pretty much eat whenever I want and eat whatever I want,” Goettling told CBS4.

He can also play basketball and hockey and do anything else an active 15-year-old would do. He does have to keep a close eye on his sugars though, too low and he could have a seizure; too high and his body reacts badly.

“It’s hard to breathe. I’m getting dizzy, my stomach hurts, it’s just not a good feeling,” Goettling explained.

Doctors diagnosed him when he was just 18 months old. Goettling hasn’t known a life without diabetes and insulin injects but he can thank researchers from 9 decades ago for the life he leads now.

The American Diabetes Association EXPO has more than 50 exhibitors with information on all the latest technology and treatments for Diabetes. There will be presentations on health as well as cooking demonstrations and free health screenings. EXPO is a Fit 4 Colorado event. It runs from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, March 5th at the Colorado Convention Center (Exhibit Hall F).

— Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith


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