The Diabetes Dads Behind 3 Type 1 Breakthroughs

Every hands-on dad of a child with Type 1 deserves kudos this Father’s Day. That being said, the diabetes community is fortunate to have a few motivated D-dads in the scientific and engineering communities who have made it their mission to find a cure or create better treatments for people with Type 1.

Here are three notable dads to celebrate this Father’s Day:

Damianoprofile1_300pxEd Damiano – Damiano is the driving force behind the bionic pancreas, an artificial pancreas system that distills both insulin and glucagon to automate Type 1 treatment. A biomedical engineering professor at Boston University, Damiano dived into the world of artificial pancreas design after his son, David, was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of 11 months. Damiano made a promise to his son that he would have the bionic pancreas ready for use by the time David heads off to college. The device has tested well in laboratory and real-world settings, and he hopes to have it approved for commercial sale by 2017.

BigfootBryanandSamMazlish_300pxBryan Mazlish – Mazlish, an analyst who created algorithms to understand financial trends, was at first not particularly hands-on with his wife’s Type 1 diabetes management; she did pretty well with it on her own and didn’t ask for much help. After their child was diagnosed, however, Mazlish became frustrated with the state of diabetes management technology, according to a Diabetes Mine profile. He applied what he knew about algorithms to improve on meters and to get meters and pumps to interact with each other. In essence, he created a homebrew artificial pancreas, one his wife says has worked wonders in keeping her and her son’s blood glucose levels in check. He also became a standard bearer for the diabetes DIY hacking movement. Mazlish now hopes to be one of the first hackers to cross over and create a commercially sold product; he has helped from Bigfoot Biomedical, a company which is attempting to bring an artificial pancreas to market.

HHMI portrait scientists at Chevy ChaseDoug Melton – When Melton’s infant son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nearly a quarter century ago, he committed to finding a way to use human embryonic stem cells to grow insulin-producing beta cells for people with Type 1. This was no easy task to contemplate, as stem cell therapy was more science fiction than science fact at the time. Melton spent more than two decades working to unlock a method to command stem cells to become beta cells, persevering in his work even when federal stem cell therapy funding was curtailed. Last year, the Harvard researcher announced he had succeeded in creating bulk amounts of beta cells, and his breakthrough should greatly advance beta cell replacement therapy for people with Type 1.

Here’s to every diabetes dad who steps up, whether to treat a child’s low or to create the next big thing in diabetes treatment! Happy Father’s Day!


This story has been edited to clarify the age of Ed Damiano’s son. (6/23/2015)

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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