T-rex clinical trial: Learning more about Type 1 diabetes

It’s early in the morning and Allie Chavez is meeting with Kurt Griffin, M.D., at Sanford Health. Chavez, 17, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two years ago.

“It was, you know, a little scary,” she said. “It was something new and something I never really thought I would have to contend with in my life, but I make do with what I have and I’m just grateful that I have a life at all.”

Chavez, who lives in southern Iowa, learned of Griffin and Sanford Health’s T-Rex clinical trial through online research. More than 100 patients enrolled in the trail, which attempts to rebalance the immune system.

“Now what we’re trying to do is periodically bring them back and give them a challenge with a meal, in a jar, and see just how much insulin they can still make,” said Griffin. “What we’re trying to do here in the end is preserve that insulin production. If we can keep someone making as much insulin as when they first came in, that would be a tremendous win right there.”

Step toward diabetes cure

That’s what Chavez is doing today. Her blood sugar will be tested at intervals to see how high her levels go because of the chocolate shake. Type 1 diabetics treat the disease by injecting insulin several times a day.

“It can be difficult at times,” Chavez said. “It’s really hard to find the right ratio for every situation.”

The T-Rex clinical trial is one step in Sanford Health’s quest to cure type 1 diabetes. Patients are followed for two years after therapy.

“There are some people who are doing extremely well, irrespective of if that’s from the study or not, that’s good for them,” Griffin said.

“I think it’s really awesome what they’re trying to do here as far as trying to find, if not so much a cure, an extension of the honeymoon phase, which I think is really interesting,” Chavez said. “I just wanted to see if it could help me and even if it can’t the data that I’m providing can help other people in the future, possibly.”

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