Dribbling for a cure

Tournament raises money to fight juvenile diabetes

Tournament raises money to fight juvenile diabetes

March 20, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Since September 2004, 13-year-old Jenna Hansroth has pricked her finger more than 3,200 times to test her blood-sugar level.

Her vision got so bad that for a while she couldn't read. She has had to give up softball, basketball and cross-country, and she has to pass up candy rewards in class and cut back on chocolate.

"That stinks," the Berkeley Springs, W.Va., resident says.

All of this because she has Type 1 diabetes.

Of almost 21 million people in the United States estimated to have diabetes, about 3 million have this type of diabetes, more commonly known as juvenile diabetes, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Last year, Jenna started a fundraiser for the foundation, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Dunkin' Diabetes, which raised $1,000 to help find ways to treat diabetes and look for a cure.


She hopes to raise $2,000 at the tournament on Saturday at Warm Springs Middle School in Berkeley Springs.

In addition to raising funds, Jenna uses the tournament to educate people about juvenile diabetes. She also has given presentations on the disease to fellow students at Warm Springs Middle School.

Type 1 vs. Type 2

While her family has a history of Type 2 diabetes, Jenna says she didn't know anything about diabetes until her diagnosis.

Type 1 diabetes is when a person's pancreas no longer produces insulin, a protein required to regulate blood-glucose levels in the body, says Aaron Kowalski, director of strategic research projects for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

This type of diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

So people with this type of diabetes must take insulin shots or use a pump that feeds insulin into their blood, Kowalski says. Before the discovery of insulin, Type 1 diabetes was fatal.

Type 1 diabetes is called juvenile diabetes because most people diagnosed with this type are children, but it also can be diagnosed in adults. Once you have it, you have it for life.

Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in adulthood, although more cases are being diagnosed in children due to obesity, Kowalski says.

This type of diabetes is caused by a problem with insulin sensitivity, not insulin deficiency, Kowalski says. The pancreas, at least initially, still produces insulin, but the body is resistant to the insulin, and high blood-sugar levels are the result.

People with Type 2 diabetes usually take insulin-sensitizing drugs rather than insulin to correct the body's sensitivity to insulin, he says.

Over time, the beta cells can become stressed and die, requiring people with Type 2 diabetes to need insulin shots.

Treatment research

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation spends about $125 million a year in research to find a cure for juvenile diabetes and its complications as well as treatments, Kowalski says.

Clinical trials are being done in the United States and Canada on transplanting islets - bunches of alpha and beta cells - from cadavers to people with Type 1 diabetes to restore insulin secretion.

Because immune systems in people with Type 1 diabetes attack beta cells and the body might reject new cells anyway, people participating in these trials must take immunosuppressant drugs so the beta cells aren't rejected, Kowalski says.

These trials are limited because of the number of islets available.

Another clinical trial, which Kowalski is working on, involves the concept of an artificial pancreas.

To improve the accuracy of measuring blood-sugar levels and the amount of insulin needed, scientists have been working on an external pump that automatically senses how much glucose is in the blood and dispenses the right amount of insulin. The pumps some diabetics currently use are manually operated.

Yale University School of Medicine is working on a clinical trial with child participants. The trial with the pump is being done in a hospital setting and has had some promising results, Kowalski says.

After finding out some people with Type 1 diabetes have a small amount of beta cells secreting tiny amounts of insulin, scientists also are working on finding a way to regenerate more of those cells and prevent the immune system from attacking them, Kowalski says.

One reason for hope is that women produce more insulin when they are pregnant because their amount of beta cells increases, Kowalski says. Scientists are trying to figure out how that happens.

If you go...

WHAT: Dunkin' Diabetes, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise funds for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

WHEN: Registration is at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 25. Games start at 8:30 a.m.

WHERE: Warm Springs Middle School gymnasium, 271 Warm Springs Way, Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

COST: $30 per team to register the morning of the event

DIRECTIONS: From Hagerstown, take Interstate 70 west to the second Hancock exit for U.S. 522 south. Take U.S. 522 across the Potomac River and into Berkeley Springs. In town, turn left on Fairfax Street and pass War Memorial Hospital. Just before the intersection with W.Va. 9, there will be a sign for Warm Springs Middle School; turn left.

MORE: The tournament is open to male and female players, ages 8 to 21. Males and females will compete separately in the following age groups: 8 to 12; 13 to 15; and 16 to 21.

Morgan County's Mighty Iroquois 4-H Club will be selling food and beverages.

For more information, call Lori Hansroth at 1-304-258-3692.

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