A First Grader and His Diabetic Service Dog Gunner

Last fall Fox News reported a 6-year old Michigan boy Ian was raising $25,000 to get a diabetic service dog. The boy was diagnosed with type I diabetes when he was about 4. He is under insulin treatment, has to be monitored 24 hours a day, and he is not able to take the school bus by himself. A diabetic service dog could detect abnormal blood sugar levels 15-30 minutes before it would be detected by symptoms or medical devices. Ian’s mom came up with an idea of raising money on Facebook by selling pumpkins.

A large pumpkin was priced for $10, and a small pumpkin for $5. Apparently most people didn’t care about shipping costs or about the pumpkin itself. Soon, Ian raised enough money for a diabetic service dog. Having waited for a year, last month, Ian’s mom updated on Facebook that the service dog Gunner will be coming around Halloween!

In 2015, 9.4% of the U.S. population had diabetes, meaning millions of people are living with diabetes. Type I and type II diabetes make up 5-10% and 90% respectively of diabetes cases. Numerous research has shown lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors all contribute to this metabolic disease. Vascular endothelium growth factor B (VEGF-B) is one of the regulators that has gained research attention in recent years. VEGF families are well known for promoting angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) and are targeted for anti-cancer therapies. Unlike other VEGF factors, VEGF-B plays an important role in the metabolic signaling pathway. Two clinical trials are currently recruiting to study VEGF-B function in the development of metabolic diseases. The first trial will collect subjects’ blood samples, investigate VEGF-B protein levels, and test the VEGF-B gene promoter region methylation status. The primary objective is to investigate the relationship between metabolic disorders and blood VEGF-B levels. The second trial will recruit 3000 participants in the general population and follow up for 6 years for the incidence of diabetes. One of the primary objectives is to examine if VEGF-B plays a role in regulating fatty acid transport systems and influences the risk of diabetes. Despite expecting to provide insights of the relationship between VEGF-B and diabetes in these ongoing trials, the functional properties of VEGF-B remain a mystery.  Therefore, it’s critical to extensively investigate the signaling pathway and the underlying mechanism of VEGF-B in metabolic disorders. These preclinical research findings, one day, may pave the way for clinical applications and benefit diabetes patients.

Further Reading:

  1. https://www.foxnews.com/health/michigan-boy-6-raises-22g-for-diabetic-service-dog-by-selling-pumpkins
  2. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03164005
  3. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02542735

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