For nearly a century, insulin has been a life-saving diabetes treatment. Now scientists are testing a tantalizing question: What if pills containing the same medicine patients inject every day could also prevent the disease?
Thirteen-year-old Hayden Murphy of Plain field, Illinois, is helping researchers determine if the strategy works for Type 1 diabetes, the kind that is usually diagnosed in childhood. If it does, he might be able to avoid the lifetime burdens facing his 5-year-old brother, Weston. They includes countless finger pricks and blood sugar checks, and avoiding playing too hard or eating too little, which both can cause dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
Hayden Murphy is among more than 400 children and adults participating in U.S. government-funded international research investigating whether experimental insulin capsules can prevent or at least delay Type 1 diabetes. Hospitals in the United States and eight other countries are involved and recruitment is ongoing. To enroll, participants must first get bad news: results of a blood test showing their chances for developing the disease are high.
"When I got the news, I was devastated," Hayden said. He knows it means his life could change in an instant.
"He has the daily reminders. He sees what his brother goes through," said the boys' mom, Myra Murphy.
So now Hayden Murphy swallows a small white capsule daily and has his blood checked periodically for signs of diabetes.
"I hope it doesn't come to me, and I really didn't want it to come to him," Hayden said.
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