Defeating Diabetes - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Defeating Diabetes

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WSVN -- At age 16, Cyndi Smart knew something wasn't right.

Cyndi Smart, Has Type-1 Diabetes: "I was waking up between five and six times a night. I was so thirsty I couldn't even lick my lips. My tongue was completely dry."

Then came the news that changed her life forever: Cyndi had Type-1 Diabetes.

Cyndi Smart: "I would have to be monitored every single minute of every single day of my life."

Her body doesn't produce insulin, so she had to check her blood sugar every day and give herself insulin shots.

Cyndi Smart: "I was on four shots a day, before every meal and before I went to bed."

She is not alone.

Robert Pearlman, Pres. of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation: "The numbers approach 26 million people, about a third of whom are walking around undiagnosed."

But those with the most severe cases, like Cyndi, also suffer from something called hypoglycemic unawareness.

Robert Pearlman, Pres. of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation: "They're not aware that they're going low in their blood sugars and they pass out. They can't operate a car, they can't hold a job."

She says it became a nightmare.

Cyndi Smart: "It changes your whole life. You have these brief moments of your life that are missing."

But now there's hope at the Diabetes Research Institute, thanks to an experimental procedure called an islet cell transplant.

Dr. Camillo Ricordi, who pioneered the research, says insulin-producing cells are taken from a donor's pancreas and transplanted into the patient.

Dr. Camillo Ricordi, Dir. of the Diabetes Research Institute & Cell Transplant: "The transplant is very simple. It's like a blood transfusion."

The cells are extracted through a Ricordi chamber he invented.

Researchers are hoping it will one day lead to a cure.

Dr. Camillo Ricordi, Dir. of the Diabetes Research Institute & Cell Transplant: "We always work like it could happen within the next three to five years."

Cyndi had the transplant.

She still has diabetes, but it's a lot more manageable.

Now, she can eat what she wants and checks her blood sugar a lot less often.

Cyndi Smart: "I come and go as I please. I know there's not going to be any low sugar, so I have my whole life back."

Lynn Martinez: "Researchers say the problem is, there's a limited number of donor cells available, and there's a long waiting list for the procedure."

For more information about the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation:Diabetes Research Tel: (800) 321-3437

For information about insulin pump therapy and more:Animas Tel: (877) YES-PUMP (1-877-937-7867) Tel: (800) 227-8862

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