Beyond Insulin: Searching for a Cure to Type 1 Diabetes

Twin challenges: Halt the autoimmune attack that destroys insulin-making cells and replace lost cells.

Video: What Is Diabetes?

One of those patients is Ryan Cupps, 19, of Plum Borough, Pa., who has lived with type 1 diabetes since age 13. Even if Cupps is receiving the experimental therapy—the volunteers don't yet know who's getting a placebo treatment—he knows it may be coming too late to help him, because his immune system may have finished off his beta cells years ago. But he is hopeful that his participation may help others avoid his situation, which requires six shots of insulin and seven finger-sticks (to check his blood sugar) every day. "It would mean a whole lot to me for those newly diagnosed not to have to go through [this]," he says.

Massimo Trucco, who is heading up the trial, says that even if this experimental treatment buys patients like Cupps even a year's reprieve from the need to take insulin, he would be satisfied. Though his hopes for dramatic results are high, they're laced with uncertainty, as the path toward a cure has been littered with dead ends. "If its effects last forever, like in the mouse, I will jump for joy," he says, "but from mouse to human is always a big jump."