KANSAS CITY, Mo. — November is American Diabetes Month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say roughly one in 10 Americans have diabetes, and about one in five Americans do not know they have it.
In Kansas City, there’s a world-class science facility conducting research that could have a massive impact on the search for a cure to this burdensome disease.
Cierra Reynolds is 25 years old and has been living with Type 1 diabetes for more than a decade.
“I keep my insulin pump on me at all times,” Reynolds said.
She wears the pump and a continuous glucose monitor, thankful for their convenience.
“I was able to go to my phone today, and as I’m walking in the door, I’m able to program in that I need insulin, and I’m able to give myself insulin,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds has been told since the beginning that she wouldn’t face the disease forever.
“When I was diagnosed, almost 14 years ago, they told me we should have a cure,” she said. “We hope to have a cure in the next 10-15 years. We’re getting closer to that 15-year mark, and we’re coming so far.”
Although progress has been made, more patients require care. The CDC says that between 2017-2020, the number of Type 1 patients in America increased by 30%.
KSHB 41 spoke with Dr. David Robbins, director of the Cray Diabetes Center at The University of Kansas Health System, who has treated the disease for over 30 years.
“There are even some theories that the disease didn’t even exist 200-300 years ago, so it may be a modern disease,” Robbins said. “There are speculations it may be related to changes in diet, environmental toxins, bacteria and so on. So it’s a bit of a mystery as to what’s going on.”
Robbins says he’s optimistic for the future the more he sees the life span of a patient increase dramatically.
“I think we can cure Type 1 diabetes,” he said.
The key to a solution? Potentially fish.
The Stowers Institute in KCMO has the largest cavefish facility in the country. These fish spend months at a time without eating and then gorge themselves when food is available.
Dr. Nicolas Rohner is using them to study metabolism, including how animals adapt to nutrient limitations.
“They are glucose intolerant, they’re insulin resistant, they have high blood sugar,” Rohner said. “But they don’t have any negative signs associated with this.”
He and his team believe thinking outside the box could change humanity for the better.
“Basically a disease in humans is something that went wrong, that usually should work well,” Rohner said. “So first, what you have to understand is how does it work well? And then you can understand how it went wrong and what you can do to restore it back.”

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