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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Diabetes

In Elemental. More on Medium.

The coronavirus is not just a risk for people with diabetes — it may actually cause the disease

Photo: LaylaBird/Getty Images

It’s well established that people who have diabetes are at a higher risk for serious complications from Covid-19, especially if the diabetes isn’t well managed. But researchers are now looking into another side of the connection between these two illnesses: whether infection with the novel coronavirus may trigger diabetes in people with no prior history of diabetes.


Approximately one in four people with diabetes are using less insulin than they need because of the cost

Participant holding a protest sign at a rally for affordable insulin for people with diabetes.
Participant holding a protest sign at a rally for affordable insulin for people with diabetes.
Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images

In the past 10 years, the price of insulin in the United States has tripled. For those people with diabetes who have to buy their insulin without insurance or with high-deductibles and coinsurance plans, the inflated price of this essential drug has forced impossible choices between buying insulin and paying for rent or buying food. (In some cases, biohackers with diabetes are even making their own insulin.)


When it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit and there’s no available refrigeration, the solutions are ingenious

Credit: Niklas Halle’n/Getty Images

My friend Jon recently returned from a research trip to Sierra Leone. He’s a graduate student in sociology at Boston University and was observing the work at a new clinic built to improve care for patients with chronic diseases like respiratory disease, cancer, and diabetes. The clinic, supported by the global health organization Partners In Health, is based in Kono District, a region with poor infrastructure, devastated by the civil war fought in the 90s and early 2000s over diamonds and other mineral resources.


A life-changing diagnosis — and the medical device to help manage it — created an enduring familial bond

Illustration: Carolyn Figel

In January of last year, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. For reasons that are still unclear, my immune system revolted against the cells in my pancreas that produce insulin. Without insulin, my body had no way of absorbing glucose from my bloodstream and freaked out — technically, it went into diabetic ketoacidosis, an extreme and potentially lethal version of the metabolic state those keto diet folks hope to induce by eating only avocados and butter.


“If we can make [insulin] in our janky lab on a $10,000 a year budget, there’s no way it should cost this much,” says Thornton Thompson. Photography: Alex Welsh

Diabetes is a punishingly expensive disease. In an Oakland warehouse, scientists are going DIY.

David Anderson pipettes yeast under a laboratory fume hood that’s surrounded by graffiti. From a beaker, he extracts a tiny amount of the microscopic fungus and transfers it to a test tube, which he then spins in a centrifuge to separate the proteins from the rest of the broth. The next day, he will inject the protein mix into an electrically charged gel, and if all goes well, the smallest protein will wiggle to the front, identifying itself as insulin.

Elemental

Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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