Founded in 2006, Massachusetts-based biotechnology startup Gelesis has raised a total of $118.2 million for developing an oral smart pill. In 2016, the company initially filed an IPO offering of $60 million, but pulled out and instead focused on raising more funding. The technology is based on capsules filled with tiny hydrogel particles that expand between 50 to 100 times their weight in size after absorbing water from the stomach, which results in increased satiety to help obese diabetes patients lose weight and control their sugar metabolism. They are currently undergoing a phase 2 clinical trial on their Gelesis200 product for treating diabetes.
The body obtains glucose from three main sources: the intestinal absorption of food; the breakdown of glycogen (glycogenolysis), the storage form of glucose found in the liver; and gluconeogenesis, the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates in the body. Insulin plays a critical role in balancing glucose levels in the body. Insulin can inhibit the breakdown of glycogen or the process of gluconeogenesis, it can stimulate the transport of glucose into fat and muscle cells, and it can stimulate the storage of glucose in the form of glycogen.
In addition to the problems with an increase in insulin resistance, the release of insulin by the pancreas may also be defective and suboptimal. In fact, there is a known steady decline in beta cell production of insulin in type 2 diabetes that contributes to worsening glucose control. (This is a major factor for many patients with type 2 diabetes who ultimately require insulin therapy.) Finally, the liver in these patients continues to produce glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis despite elevated glucose levels. The control of gluconeogenesis becomes compromised.
Wellness is in many ways a counterpoint to the inefficient and inaccessible and alienating elements of the U.S. health-care system. While it may have antiestablishment origins, the industry is now subject to criticism as a new elite establishment, and one that profits off of serious insecurities and medical problems. Marketing for the festival alludes to the opioid epidemic that killed 72,000 Americans last year: “With our world being affected by addiction and mental-health issues, the Wellspring festival couldn’t come at a better time.” At a time when millions of Americans bear medical debt or are doing jobs they would otherwise quit, because they need health insurance, Wanderlust offers monthly payment plans (“rates from 10–30 percent APR”) to afford a ticket.
An unbalanced microbiome composition, known as dysbiosis, has been found in patients with diabetes, for whom the diversity of the gut microbiome is often reduced as compared to healthy people. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam recently showed that fecal transplants, used to transfer the microbiome of a healthy person to the gut of one with diabetes, can result in a short-term improvement of the insulin resistance found in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.
For now, I manage my diabetes through a combination of technologies. I use a blood test meter to measure my glucose levels at least five times a day. I use a pump that is attached to my abdomen to deliver frequent doses of insulin throughout the day. And now I also use a continuous monitoring device that measures my subcutaneous blood sugar levels to help the insulin pump work more effectively.
Scientists and researchers are skeptical about the possibility of a true cure for type 2 diabetes. Michael German, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, believes much of the success in a diabetes cure depends on an individual’s genetic makeup. And the Joslin Diabetes Center, the world’s largest diabetes research center and an affiliate institute of Harvard Medical School, claims that there is no cure for diabetes. Regardless, everyone can agree that an effective cure could put an end to the cycle of suffering for diabetes patients.