We are rolling out our 2011 Annual Report stories throughout March. Many of these stories feature multimedia material such as a video that we are releasing today alongside a story about diabetes research. The full report will be posted online and available for download later this month.
Todd Dubnicoff is CIRM’s videographer and video editor.
One thing I’ve learned producing videos at CIRM is that you don’t truly know a disease until you hear first-hand from the people who live with it. Take, for example, the new diabetes video that we’re rolling today out along with the 2011 Annual Report story on the same subject.
For the video, my colleague Amy Adams and I filmed interviews with Chris Stiehl and Sarah Young, both living with type 1 diabetes, as well as Kevin D’Amour, the chief scientific officer at Viacyte, Inc., which has a $20 million CIRM Disease Team award to bring an embryonic stem cell-based diabetes therapy to clinical trials. JDRF recently co-funded the project. Our annual report story has more details about Viacyte’s therapeutic strategy.
Before the interviews I brushed up on my knowledge of diabetes. I felt I had a solid grasp of the metabolic basis of the disease from my biology classes in school. But it wasn’t until I pressed the start button on my video camera and watched Chris and Sarah tell their stories that I got a glimpse of what diabetes was all about: it’s about having the courage and positive outlook to live with a daily and life-long burden. Chris who was diagnosed at the age of 10 and is now 62 described diabetes this way:
It’s a 24-hour a day job, 7 days a week you never get a day off. I would give anything for a day off. Just to not have to think about it. Besides all the things you have to do for your work and your family and everything, you have to be constantly thinking: “What’s my blood sugar? What have I eaten? Have I exercised too much or too little? How much insulin should I take based on the exercise I just did? Gee by the way is my insulin pump running out of insulin? How’s the battery in the pump? How’s the battery in the blood tester?” There’s a whole entourage of things to worry about and it occupies your mind a lot.
Sarah, who was also diagnosed at 10 and is now just 14 spoke about the meal-by-meal vigilance of insulin dosing that she must think through to keep her blood sugar levels safely in check:
Every time I eat a meal or a snack or if someone [at school] brings something in for their birthday, I have to sit down and think, “what do I want to eat?” And I have to really be sure that I’m right because if I don’t end up eating everything I dosed myself for, I’ll have a low blood sugar which is bad. And if I want to eat more I’ll have to dose again which is just complicated and annoying. So it was really a pretty big change for me after I got diagnosed to have to make a commitment about the amount of food I was going to eat and stick to that and not to be able to change based on, “oh, I feel full now” or “you know, I think I’ll have another cookie.”
While rewatching those interviews to create the video, I felt like I had gotten to know Chris and Sarah and I became impressed with how they and their families have bravely confronted diabetes. Personally, it makes the prospect of Viacyte’s stem cell-based therapy for diabetes even more exciting. Kevin D’Amour echoed that thought during his interview:
I’ve been here [at Viacyte] nine years and in the early days we didn’t have much. But now to see the program evolve and blossom to the point where it represents a clinical reality for helping patients has been very motivating and very satisfying.
This is the third annual report story we’ve posted. Here are the others:
The full report will be available for download later this month.