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Honorable Mention Excerpts

Olivia Wilkes

Home School
Toney, AL
Teacher: Linda Wilkes

 

I’m lacing up my cleats in preparation for the soccer game, when I hear a sudden high-pitched beeping at my side. I lift my shirt and grasp the insulin pump clipped to my pants, silencing the alarming Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) as it alerts me that my blood glucose (BG) is abnormally high. The butterflies in my stomach aren’t the only evidence of my pre-game nerves; stress often causes my blood sugar to rise. Punching the buttons on my robotic pancreas, I dial in a BG of 245 mg/dL, and my pump delivers a correction bolus of 3.10 insulin units subcutaneously through an infusion site on my thigh.

I am one of the estimated 1.25 million Americans living with Type 1 Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, n.d.). Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system malfunctions, attacking and killing the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas (Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, n.d.). Without insulin, a hormone responsible for the utilization and regulation of glucose, the blood becomes concentrated with glucose and chronic hyperglycemia occurs (MedlinePlus, 2016). To manage this disease, I, like all Type 1 Diabetics, must treat myself through exogenous insulin therapy, injecting insulin into my body daily…

…There is simply no substitute for naturally produced and administered insulin.

This is why gene therapy research focusing on restoring the body’s natural insulin-producing function in people with T1D is so potentially impactful…

…used adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 1 vectors to administer the Ins and Gck transgenes to the dogs intramuscularly. Insulin and glucokinase were chosen because of their synergistic relationship that creates a “glucose sensor,” as the study puts it. Ins is the gene responsible for creating insulin (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017), and would provide a basal, or small and constant, supply of insulin to the dogs. Gck measures the glucose content of the blood and regulates insulin production (Diabetes Genes, n.d.). It prompts a bolus, or large and brief, release of the hormone as needed, such as in correction of hyperglycemia...

…With this gene transfer, the researchers observed a correction of T1D in the dogs. The Beagles’ did not become severely hyperglycemic when they orally consumed glucose, nor did they experience hypoglycemia during exercise. The dogs’ BG also remained level during periods of fasting. What’s more, the AAVI-Ins and AAV1-Gck treated dogs were able to maintain this normoglycemia long-term over a period of 4 years…