Me and My Money…a child’s story of diabetes

M&M Cover 300 small

Copyrighted in 2012, Me & My Money…a child’s story of diabetes, took two years to write…

From birthing thoughts, jotting ideas, typing a manuscript, carrying a daily journal, contacting an illustrator,  building the manuscript, proofreading and editing again and again and again and…you get the idea…this dream came to fruition.  It had do be done.  There is no other book like it — as far as my research goes — that reflects, mimics, or encourages diabetic children, T1Ds.  The book is now available to the general public in paperback form.  Celebrate!!

Submitting to a marketable world with a targeted audience, networking, promoting, speaking, through the main character, Kali with her dog, Money, brings attention to the increase of diabetes in animals – up 300% this past decade!

Through the wonderful insightfulness of illustrator Amy Pichly-Meyer who is responsible for the clarity of expression with the cover design, along with all 37 colored  illustrations, this book was built for you.  I am thankful for her friendship and abilities.

Briefly, the main character, Kali, is presently a fourth grader.  She was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of two.  Her rapid growth with blooming and wizened independence results from learning how to take care of herself.  Wayne, a best friend, knows her very well and together they embark on adventures through Wayne’s hobby, their separate and shared responsibilities, mutual friends, and more.  But Kali cannot forget her special pack!  She must carry this with her everyday, everywhere.

This book, along with the recent publication of Me & My Money Too…a child’s story with diabetes, are tools to understanding this disease.  Minute-by-minute self-care is introduced and forthcoming in this illustrated, easy-to-read chapter book, 104 pages long, appropriate for 8 years olds and available at Amazon.com in paperback edition as well as Kindle e-readers.   Local bookstores carry copies as well as local libraries with requests.  Please enjoy the following Chapter excerpts…

Chapter 1, Book One

Due to keeping up with my chores, I occasionally have some change in my pocket.  That’s because my parents give me a weekly allowance that I can spend when I want.

“Make sure you spend wisely,’ Dad says.  I’m not quite sure what “spend wisely” means, but I think I do okay with what I have.  For instance, one of my friends from school, Wayne, asked me to go to the hobby store one Saturday afternoon.  Because it is school summer vacation time, we could go almost any time, depending on our parents.  However, Saturday’s are best.

Wayne and I go way back, to kindergarten.  He is the only red-head kid in our whole grammar school, never mind our fourth grade.  He’s a full blown carrot top with thick hair in wavy curls.  This makes him real easy to spot in a crowd.  The girls in our class like Wayne more than the boys do.  I think this is because he has good manners and is polite.  It is either that or his clear sky blue eyes that sparkle.  Even his eyelashes are orange, matching his hair.  Most girls I know like blue eyes.  I never thought about it much.  My eyes are dark brown to match my light brown and blonde streaky hair.

Wayne is a pale looking kid.  Most of the time, the only color on Wayne’s face is because of his tannish-brown colored freckles.  I swear, if he didn’t have freckles, he would be white as a ghost!  I tease him about that, pretending that I can’t see him sometimes.  We laugh.  He blushes all red and pink.  It’s funny to see.  Wayne is shorter than I am — for now.  He teases me about my long brown hair — so flat, so straight and thin.  “There’s nothing to your hair,” he tells me as he quickly flicks it in the air.  “You don’t even have to brush it.  Your hair just hangs there off your fat head,” he often tells me as if I need to be reminded. 

I think Wayne is jealous of my straight hair.  Brushing his hair is a struggle because it is very thick.  Mine is a lot easier because it is stick straight.  He hates when his mother brushes his hair because “she always pulls it out of my head,” he told me one time.  “And you have a chubby little pug-nose.  Not like my pointy one at all,” he compares.  “But you get a tan in the summer.  I don’t tan, I burn.  It’s awful,” he explains.  That is true.

One summer that I remember, his mother covered his face and arms with white suntan lotion so  he wouldn’t get burned while playing with me in my back yard.  He looked so funny.  That stuff made him smell like the beach.  I laughed at him.  He didn’t like that.  And after a while, the suntan lotion disappeared.  But we stayed friends.  He wears that stuff all the time.  Sure, I use it too, but when I forget to rub it on my skin, I don’t get too worried.

“I guess you look like your father,” I told him because I think he does.  “I look like my mother,” I said.  And that’s okay with me because my mother is beautiful.  My Dad’s okay looking — for a Dad.  Sometimes he has a moustache.  Mom told him to shave it off because it made her sneeze when they kiss.  Eeeuu!  Sneezing and kissing, yuck!

“Kali,” my mom called up the stairs.  “Wayne is on the phone for you.”

“Okay.  Thanks.  I’ll get it up here,” I told her.

“Hi Wayne.  Wassup?”

“Hey.  Can you come to the train store with me today or what?  I’m looking for a certain model train engine and I think the Viking Hobby Store will have it.”

Well, I have no particular interest in model trains, so I knew I wouldn’t buy anything but I would go along with him anyway.  This is a wise decision.  After all, he is my very best friend.  Very best friends do things for each other whether we need to or like to or not.  It was Saturday morning anyway.  Cleaning my room could wait until I got back.  I was thinking, planning.

“Mom, Dad, is it okay with you if I go to the hoppy store with Wayne today?  He thinks he found the perfect train engine for his set.  He wants me to go and help him check it out.”

“I don’t mind.  Is your room picked up?” Mom asked.

“Not all the way yet, Mom,” I replied.  “I can finish when I get back.  All I have to do is fold my clothes and put them away.  A load of my socks and some t-shirts are still in the dryer.”

“Well, all right.  Did you ask your father?” Mom wanted to know.  “And don’t forget to take a snack and some juice boxes with you.”

“I know.  I already have a pack of peanut butter nabs in my sack with some water.  I don’t know where Dad is.  I thought he was in the kitchen with you.  Maybe he’s in the garage.”

“Okay,” continued my mother.  “If you don’t see your father on your way out, I’ll tell him.  If you do, please remind him that we’re going shopping today.  Oh, are you and Wayne taking your bikes or walking?”

“I think we’ll walk.”  And out the back door I went.

Chapter 2

Wayne lives four houses away from me.  I took the short-cut over to his house through a wildflower field.  I often come here to pick my mother some flowers.  I like to pick flowers for her.  There are all kinds of wildflowers in this field: yellow ones, pink ones, purple ones with yellow centers.  I don’t know the names of these flowers, I just know they are pretty and Mom likes them.

After I met Wayne on the front porch of his house, we proceeded to walk to this particular ‘train store’ as he calls it.  It is really a hobby store that has lots of other things of interest besides trains.  I’ve been in there with one of my older cousins.  She was looking for some particular, special types of paint brushes made with camel’s hair.  I thought that was cool — paint brushes made out of a camel’s hair!  There are small glider planes in this store with hand-held motor devices; there are different kinds of wood burners and wood carving tools; there are even lots of different colored rubber fish bait things — lures.  I liked those because they are shiny, squishy, and they squiggle.  Things that would attract a fish — go figure!  Wayne had been going on about a certain model train engine he saw in here a while ago.  It took him weeks and weeks to save up his allowance money to buy it.

“Hey, before we walk too far, is your insulin pump filled up?” Wayne asked.  “I hope it doesn’t beep like crazy while we are out.  I would hate to have to leave early so you could fix it.”

“Yes, it’s fine.  I filled it up with insulin yesterday morning and changed the needle site.  We are good to go!”  I planned this on purpose.  I knew he would ask.  I am diabetic.  Wayne knows.  Among many other things, I do take care of myself and my diabetes.  I have to test my blood sugar levels many times each day.  Diabetes is a disease that causes me not to digest food properly.  Because of that, I wear an insulin pump.  I used to have to take insulin shots before I got the pump.  Having the pump is much easier.  An insulin pump squirts insulin into my body, automatically, a tiny bit at a time.  A “squirt” is maybe the size of a pencil tip or the size of a period at the end of a sentence.  My parents had to give me insulin shots before I learned to give them myself.  I still keep syringes handy, in case the pump breaks down for whatever reason.  This is called having “Plan B” which is important. 

Read more of Kali’s young life with diabetes in “Me & My Money…a child’s story of diabetes.”  Available at Amazon.com.

Part Three “Grandpa’s Gift….” Continued

Continued…Part ThreeGrandpa”s Gift Of Germany

Pulling the numerous propagandized brochures from my suitcase, Robert helped me set them up on his kitchen table. Together we went through them, separating intense interest with train schedules apart from any inconvenient or controversial sites. Already late, he happily offered me his bedroom while he would stay on the couch in his living room. I watched him shine his Army boots before I plopped into his bed.

My first prelude to this part of Europe was a drive to France. France! Very early two days later, we headed out the door to France. Throwing caution to the wind, my pocket book holding my passport, wallet, hair brush, toothbrush, and a clean pair of just-in-case underpants, we were off.

Getting as far as Strasbourg, the closest French town to the German border, we were not allowed entrance to France. Don’t know why. “They probably don’t like Americans today,” Robert stated. I found that odd but did not pursue his statement. However, as the Strasbourg traveler’s rest area remained available, we left deposits, bought drinks and snacks, and hopped back into the BMW. Leaving Strasbourg with an expression of confusion upon our faces, Robert politely followed the border control agent’s arms as he waved instructions to turn around. Robert complied. Hmm. We never found out why. Strange. Different. Disappointing, we never found out why. Well, at least I could say I was there – on the French-German border.

After at least a two-hour return drive, our conversation quieted. I enjoyed the scenery, the landscaped border of Germany and France. France’s expansive hills, valleys and dales were adorned with grape vines. Acres and acres of grape vines intertwined on metal fencing. Nothing like this back home, that’s for sure. Mesmerized, I became sleepy.

“Hey, seeing as we’re so close to Luxembourg, I’ll take you there,” blurted Robert, awakening me to full attention.

Come to find out, Luxembourg is one country of many to border Germany. Along with the Baltic and North Seas, Denmark is to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, and France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands to the west. We headed west.

Since I was unfamiliar with Luxembourg, Robert proudly schooled me that it is the smallest yet richest country in the world. “It is run by a prince,” Robert continued. Luxembourg City, specifically, it attracted my attention from afar. Perched on a cliff, in shades of age and discoloration, this area of the city’s walls were built and fortified with large boulders squared and rectangular.

Not wanting to spend too much of our limited time, we came upon Roman baths. Built from stones in the 10th century, they were evenly placed stone-against-stone, about twelve inches high, each cut and carved stone about four inches thick. Access to such a bath would require a person to literally climb inside any one of the expansive stone cutouts. Naked? I don’t know and didn’t ask. That’s how you take a bath, though, right? Naked?

Their spacious yet separate allotments remained close together, snug, large enough for a family of five to sit in, causing me to visually wonder how such a place could function. Certainly not like my bathtub at home, my space of isolation and quiet reading, alone-ness, relaxation. Oh, no.

Although the Roman Baths in Luxembourg were overgrown and worn by the ages of storms, precipitous factors, insects, animals, these numerous rectangular spaces granted no bottom comforts. Surrounded by what seemed to be a small forest of trees, sitting on the ground to bathe seemed senseless, ludicrous – at least to me. But what did I know about the 10th century and its human inhabitants? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. However, the little I saw and learned about Luxembourg caused me to fall in love with the country. With its simplicities. A simple, historical bath, for instance.

Back on the road, Robert explained his week’s work schedule with the encouragement for me to travel by train. That’s what I did with his kind offer to call him when I was ready to be picked up.

Walking the mile to Aschaffenburg’s center as Robert told me was a pleasant experience. He also told me that the trains depart and return in the heart of every city. I found this town to be daintily attractive, neighborly and just plain sweet. The weather so far this week was cool with low-lying clouds, highs of 75° Fahrenheit with a mixture of gray and yellow muted sunshine. Too cool to bring home a tan.

Watching for a sign reading Bahnhof (Train Station), I found it nailed above the station’s doorway. Entering the long, drab looking cement block building that resembled a double-wide trailer, I found it odd that it was unencumbered by other travelers or distractions. I was alone. It felt odd.  Spotting an open ticket window with an unsmiling middle-age woman dressed in what appeared to be a colorless khaki uniform, I stepped forward saying Ein Ticket nach Weisbaden bitte (One ticket to Weisbaden please). Chinka-chanka-chunka on a large hand calculating machine seconds later, she said 5 Marks bitte. We exchanged my money for the train ticket. Equivalent to 5.41 USD, I could do this. As sour looking as she was, I wished her a good day ─  Schönen Tag – waiting not even five minutes for the train.

Viewing 45 miles (72 km) of Germany’s landscape, I had a reclining seat with a footrest, an overhead reading light if I wished to use it, and soft air conditioning. Magnificently pleasant, I did not want to get off.  But I had to.

Why Weisbaden? To walk. To walk and walk and walk some more. Sightsee, window shop, listen to the languages being spoken, sit in the open air, people watch, have a coffee with a pastry perhaps. Relax. The pastry I found, called a Schneeballen, ended up being just what I needed. A ball of deep-fried dough that when held, engulfed the center of one hand. Covered in dark, sweet, Bavarian chocolate, I asked for extra nuts, coconut, and cinnamon to top it off.  Dunkle bayerische schokolade, extra nüsse, kokosnuss und zimt, um das ganze abzurunden. Pretty good, huh? Pretty damn good!

Nothing too absurd or out of the ordinary, my enjoyment was being one with Germany. Comfortable with myself.

Back in Aschaffenburg, I called Robert to come get me, meeting him at a particular lamppost. While waiting, further window shopping captured my attention to a black and white fur coat. It was gorgeous. Entering the furrier’s shop, my questions to the proprietor answered the cost of $1,200.00 USD. Oh my! Made from 400 skunks – odd as that may be – I was totally enchanted with this butt covering coat without the stink! I had to leave the shop quickly before I bought it. Such a thing would be grand to wear during a cold Massachusetts day or night.

My next train trip two days later headed to Heidelberg. Why Heidelberg? The castle! The castle pictured in more than one brochure.

Looking forward to a longer train ride through more countryside, an approximate average of an hour and a half would bring me to this magnificent looking castle. For a cost of $20.00 USD, I was in, or on, however you want to word it.

This “Holy Mount,” estimated at six centuries old, was originally the residence of princes, plural. Its history is phenomenal, dating as far back as 40 AD. Built of stone, surrounded by stone, vineyards, rivers and fields felt to be a happy place. I can’t explain it, but I could feel it.

On the grounds, by grounds I mean acres and acres and plots of constructed buildings and villages, there is a university, a Witch’s Tower, Jesuit School, Church and seminary, Public Baths, the Hall of Mirrors, the Court Chemist’s Shop, the Church of the Holy Ghost and so much more. Overwhelmed by all that was offered – for a price – I remained within the palatial walls and halls of Heidelberg Castle as happy as a fictional princess character.

Returning to reality, in Robert’s cottage, I needed to focus on my return trip. Before laundry and packing, I enjoyed another brisk walk to the butcher’s shop for fish, the next door bakery for some freshly baked bread, along with some lovely fresh carrots from the landlady’s garden. We were both delighted with the outcome and the pleasure of each other’s company.

An early night led to an early morning for another 12-hour flight home for me and to the military base office for Robert.

Auf Wiedersehen, lieber Freund. Vielen Dank für Ihre Gastfreundschaft. (Good bye, dear friend. Thank you for your hospitality until we meet again.)

And Grandpa? Thank you. I miss you.

THE END

Destination The World NCPA Anthology 2020, Volume Two, © 2020. “Grandpa’s Gift Of Germany” page 22. Available at Amazon.com.

…”Grandpa’s Gift…” Part Two

Continued…Part Two, “Grandpa’s Gift of Germany

After sending a cheery, flower covered note card to Robert, practically inviting myself to stay at his house for a visit, he called me. “Yes! Sure! You can stay with me. It’d be great to see you!” Not having spoken to or with him in at least a year, it was nice to hear his voice. Furthermore, he hinted to me the best days to fly, stating “not to worry about a car rental”; he explained the railway system as being “superb”; asked if I knew where I wanted to go, what did I want to see? He could use his time off to drive through some of the countryside. Wonderful! I had some ideas as to the answers of his questions. “Learn some German, Andrea….” were his last words on the phone.

Off to the library I went to get a few LP (Long Playing) albums of German Language and Diction to play on my turntable. It wasn’t difficult to learn and I enjoyed it. Along with purchasing an English/German Dictionary, I felt rather proud of myself for learning another language.

Satisfied with the results of that contact effort, the flight became my next task….

Through a travel agency, I booked a round trip flight via “Northwest Orient” from Boston, Massachusetts at 9:40 AM on July 1, 1984 for $432.00 USD, stopping in London, England for a re-fueling, then onto landing in Munich, Germany at 9:30 AM on July 2nd. Having dozed off and on during those hours, I occupied myself with reading a book and the occasional prayer for my safe keeping and spiritual guidance. My favorite Diet Cokes were free along with a turkey and tomato sandwich. Peanuts were handed out later during that flight.

The London, England refueling process and time did not allow me to exit the airplane. No worries. I was happy to at least say I was there!

The twelve-hour flight left me anxious, wanting to walk briskly, jump, move my body, get my circulation circulating. Becoming moody ─ cranky with exhaustion ─ was not going to be tolerated. Looking out the airplane window, calmly flying through the cotton ball clouds, looking forward to seeing Robert and so much more brought me a calm and simple gratitude.

“Andrea! Andrea! I’m over here!” Robert called to me as I rushed through a swarm of travelers to greet him. He was taller than I last remembered. And a bit more muscular, more handsome. His buzz cut blonde hair and smiling blue eyes were unmistakably those of my friend.

Small talk followed as we exited the airport area in his silver BMW toward his rented cottage in Aschaffenburg located on the southwest part of Germany. Listening to Robert talk was music to my ears. The car windows down, he drove me on the infamous autobahn, “the highway without speed limits.” Feeling carefree, careless with all the windows down, my long hair whipping every which way, I didn’t care. I was here. I was here with my long time friend.

Fitfully excited, I did not want to rest or unpack. Robert could tell. After washing up and changing clothes, he took me for a ride around his neighborhood.

Narrow, black topped streets, multiple two-story houses, mostly apartments, were everywhere. Each of these houses were surrounded by neat, bright green and spacious lawns in between. Every window of every home presented demure and patterned lace curtains. I was charmed. Not only with the attractive cleanliness of such decor, but each and every outer window sill housed a wooden or colored plastic rectangular flower box full of freshly blooming, multi-colored flowers. Gorgeous!

“You’ll be able to safely walk around the neighborhood if you’d like,” Robert stated, breaking my rapt attention. “The bakery is within walking distance as is the butcher. There are no nearby ‘Cumberland Farms’ stores or ‘7-11s’”

“Great. Do you like fish? I’ll cook us up a fresh fish dinner if I find something suitable at the butcher’s.”

“Yes. Fish is fine. That’d be nice.”

That first evening, Robert drove us to a nearby restaurant, The Schlossgasse 16, 63739 Aschaffenburg, Bavaria, Germany. It was huge! Tall. High. To me it looked like a massive hall. One room with a few doorways opposite the entrance. Filled with numerous 8’ wooden, canvas cloth covered picnic tables, its vaulted ceiling stretched into the sky.

Attention to our entrance provided immediate service. After being seated, draft beers were immediately brought to our table. Strange. In America, water is immediately brought to a diners’ table. Here, it is beer, warm beer, golden beer with a fuzzy, frothy white, bubbly heads. Robert told me that “warm beer is the way it is here. Cold beer is considered an insult.” Hmm. No problem with me, I’ll drink it and I did. “Cheers!”

Robert ordered us each a platter of sauerkraut and sausages, not too unusual for me. Delicious. However, I like yellow mustard with my sauerkraut and sausage. “No, don’t order mustard!” Robert shocked me with this excited whisper. “It is an insult. Also, eat with your left hand.” Not only did I not want to experiment with the food choices as yet, I did not want to insult a soul, not knowing Germanic table etiquette.

Quite the introduction.

Returning to his cottage, his landlady and landlord pleasantly greeted us. Robert, all smiles, made simple introductions. Smiling coyly, I felt they wanted to make sure Robert was not getting into any trouble with this attractive, young, American female visitor. Mm hmm.  Very nice. Respectful. Appreciative.

To Be Continued…..

Destination The World NCPA Anthology 2020, Volume Two, © 2020. “Grandpa’s Gift Of Germany” page 22. Available at Amazon.com.

A Short Story: “Grandpa’s Gift of Germany” Part One

Grandpa’s Gift of GermanyPart One  by A, K, Buckroth

Oh My Gosh! I’m going. I’m really, really going!

This huge decision of mine to visit Germany came about due to the death of my grandfather. His quick demise through heart failure saddened my spirit, my heart, the core of my being. Our times spent together, the private, personal conversations we shared remain invaluable and unforgettable.

“What would you like to do, Andrea?” he seriously asked me, looking me in the eyes during a visit to my grandparents home in Hyde Park, Massachusetts.

“I’d like to travel, Grandpa. I’d like to visit Germany, maybe Poland too. Find some family roots, ancestors….”

A recent high school graduate, I was eighteen when Grandpa and I had that conversation. Pondering that happy scene, I remember sitting on the swing in my grandparents back yard.

*     *     *

Riiiing. Riiiing,” went the telephone, shattering my thoughts. This was an unexpected call from Grandpa’s attorney. He wanted me to meet with him to discuss my grandfather’s will. Evidently, I was chosen as a beneficiary. Once there, I learned that Grandpa left me some money – $5,000 to be exact. Specifications in receiving this gift mentioned that I visit Germany, a once distant dream I had shared with Grandpa those eight years ago. As a history buff, this country deeply intrigued me due to ancestral roots.

Getting over the shock of this “present,” feeling richer for it, my research for a trip to Germany began. Suddenly affordable through Grandpa’s bestowal, my limitless imagination, excitement, determination with courage became strong.

At the age of twenty-six ─ attractive, single, smart, independent ─ my college graduation lead me to a career as an Executive Assistant for four years. My salary was acceptable, my apartment was humbly comfortable, best of all, my employer allowed me two weeks paid vacation time. Two weeks!  Paid!

So many preparations to make. What to do first?! Where will I stay? What about a passport? Find and speak with a travel agent – √. Change United States currency into German Marks – √. Learn the language ─ enough to find a restroom, ask for directions, figure out a food menu, locate train stations, the use of Germany’s transportation network; to politely greet, speak plainly, complimentary, and simply to townsfolk – √. Wowee.

After gathering numerous compelling and informational travel brochures about Germany through my membership with an auto club, I had to calm down enough to organize this trip, to focus on where I wanted to go. All of the brochures displayed magnificent pictures of castles, museums, inviting landscapes, shopping centers, restaurants ─ anything and everything a visitor would enjoy. My excitement was overwhelming. This became a commitment ─ a commitment to myself.

First, accommodations.

Robert immediately came to mind. Robert Elman, U. S. Army Captain, stationed in Aschaffenburg, Germany. He and I discussed this possibility ─ I remembered his personal invitation to me ─ when he came home on leave the last time. Through that, I decided to contact him.      Although we had a friendly yet casual relationship beginning in high school lasting through adolescence (my high school prom, his military cotillion, movies and fast food dates, working together at a local grocery) I had to contact his parents for his present address.

Residing in the same city, I knocked on their door without an invitation. They greeted me with whole hearted and joyous enthusiasm.

“Andrea, it’s been a while since we’ve seen you. Come in come in!” the exuberance of seeing them again brought tears to my eyes. I truly did not know what to expect. This charming couple recalled my youthful days with their son. Delightfully, Robert’s contact information became available to me without any qualms.

To BeContinued….

Destination The World NCPA Anthology 2020, Volume Two, © 2020. “Grandpa’s Gift Of Germany” page 22. Available at Amazon.com.

Good ‘Science’ Wednesday! RE: Sickle Cell Disease

As posted to my facebook pages September 8, 2021, it is shared here”

Mother and daughter team up to fight bias and discrimination in treatment for people with sickle cell disease

by Kevin McCormack

“Adrienne Shapiro and Marissa Cors are a remarkable pair by any definition. The mother and daughter duo share a common bond, and a common goal. And they are determined not to let anyone stop them achieving that goal.

“Marissa was born with sickle cell disease (SCD) a life-threatening genetic condition where normally round, smooth red blood cells are instead shaped like sickles. These sickle cells are brittle and can clog up veins and arteries, blocking blood flow, damaging organs, and increasing the risk of strokes. It’s a condition that affects approximately 100,000 Americans, most of them Black.

“Adrienne became a patient advocate, founding Axis Advocacy, after watching Marissa get poor treatment in hospital Emergency Rooms.  Marissa often talks about the way she is treated like a drug-seeker simply because she knows what medications she needs to help control excruciating pain on her Sickle Cell Experience Live events on Facebook.

“Now the two are determined to ensure that no one else has to endure that kind of treatment. They are both fierce patient advocates, vocal both online and in public. And we recently got a chance to sit down with them for our podcast, Talking ‘Bout (re) Generation. These ladies don’t pull any punches.

“Enjoy the podcast.

“CIRM is funding four clinical trials aimed at finding new treatments and even a cure for sickle cell disease.

An Irish Wog by A. K. Buckroth

Although a “wog” denotes a negative, racial connotation in Australia, Britain, Ireland, and Scotland, this story projects quite the opposite. For good reason, I changed this adjective into a verb. To me it means “walking and running = wogging or a wog-run” for walking intermittently with running.

“Running?” you ask. Yes indeed, running.

Because of my sense of goodwill toward fundraising for worthy causes, the American Diabetes Association (“ADA”) was no different. I had made life-changing commitments by walking numerous miles through different city streets in different states over numerous years doing coast-to-coast fundraising for a cure of several different human diseases. However, this organization had something big on its desk to offer money-raising runners and walkers, diabetics and non-diabetics.

Through an open invitation, interested peers gathered for a tri-monthly ADA meeting in a plush, downtown Los Angeles, California hotel conference room to discuss, learn, and hear about positive advancements in the care and treatment of this disease, with lunch included. I was in.

During this meeting, a special announcement attracted my attention. “This year we will sponsor a marathon in Ireland to raise research money,” a speaker bellowed to the audience of at least 30 interested individuals. This meeting began the organizing of the ADA’s first participation in a 26.2 mile run, walk, skip jump, rubber-on-hardtop-or-concrete marathon. “Eager participants in this “Friendly Marathon in Dublin, Ireland should sign up immediately,” she told us.

How exciting!

Dublin, Ireland? Never having been there, I became so intrigued that I signed up on the spot. I paid the registration fee. Oh, what had I done?! Was I serious? Could I do this? Sure I could. I sensed this wonderful opportunity would be personally empowering.

“For those interested,” the speaker continued, “you’ll find more information packets on the back tables. Please help yourselves.”

Before she stopped talking, I approached that back table and gathered multiple explanatory brochures, flyers, business cards and whatever information I could carry.

Thus began my personal training. I had participated in 5k and 10k fundraising walks for Cancer, Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Alopecia, Leukemia, etc. Now, I began pounding the pavement for diabetes. Training started in February and lasted through September. With California sunshine on my back, my prepping began after work each day with a two-mile walk, which extended a little longer each day. I looked forward to this routine. Each day I grew stronger, leaner. I felt good in this new body!

Having received more of the required registration forms, an ADA administrator contacted me by phone with an invitation to another luncheon to be held in Santa Monica, California.

“…My name is Barbara Ann, and I’d like to welcome you to the marathon fundraising efforts with the ADA. So far, thirteen people have signed up for sure. Have you ever participated in a marathon?”

“No, I haven’t and I have a lot of questions.”

“Good, good,” she responded. “Save them for the luncheon in two weeks. I’m hoping all thirteen of you will have many of the same concerns. I’ll cover them all. Are you excited?”

“Yes, I sure am,” I blurted along with the others.

“Good. I’ll let you go for now. See you in a couple weeks! Bye.”

She sounded friendly enough. My questions would just have to wait.

The main purpose of the Santa Monica plan was for registrants to meet each other. Anxious, I happily drove the hour to get there. After a meatball and spaghetti lunch with a green leaf salad and iced tea, Barbara Ann encouraged each of the thirteen of us to not only get our passports in order, but to invest in good running shoes, foot tape for toes and upper foot bones, and a water bottle carrier. We were each given a white t-shirt emblazoned with the words “TEAM DIABETES” in red along with a red tank top reading the same in white letters and a navy-blue canvas duffle bag embroidered with the phrase “American Diabetes Association” in bright red. The plan was for all of us to meet at the Santa Monica Pier each Saturday to learn how to stretch properly, breathe properly and increase our mileage as a team.

At a Sports Authority retailer, I purchased a belted-waist water bottle holder, safety sunglasses to avoid dust and insects in my eyes, feet-wrapping tape, appropriate, high-soled, supportive sneakers, and white cotton socks. The sunny Southern California coast became my initial practice wog. I called my routine “wogging” for walking intermittently with running.

Trekking 17.5 miles beginning in Wilmington, California on the concrete sidewalk toward the shores of the Pacific Ocean in 3.5 hours, I passed through Harbor City, Lomita, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, all the way to Manhattan Beach. Although I wanted to go even further to Venice Beach, I did not, knowing that I still had to turn around eventually and go home. With this trek confidentially under my cap, I knew I was ready. At the age of 43, I had relearned how to take care of myself to participate in this goal, seeking a worldwide cure for the pandemic of diabetes.

On two separate occasions, different individuals blocked my pathway, causing me to veer into the street. “Wait, wait a minute, pretty lady,” a grungy-looking, middle aged man said. “I want to talk to you. I see you running by every day.”

Politely stopping, I kept a yard’s length between us. Panting slightly, sipping my water, I quickly asked “What? What is it?”

“Can I have some of your water? Or is that vodka?” he chuckled out loud bending backwards in his foolish delight. “You’re gorgeous. What’s your name?”

A bit frightened by this confrontation, I didn’t reply but hurriedly resumed my pace, veering back onto the sidewalk. I started thinking about people becoming a safety hazard. Gosh, I hope he isn’t waiting for me on my way back. He wasn’t, thank goodness.

The second time, in Lomita, a straggly, unkempt middle-aged woman blocked my path waving her arms to stop me. “Jesus Christ!” I yelled. “Get out of my way!” And I kept going. She hollered something at my back about wanting some food and liking my sneakers. Oh my Gosh! I thought. I’m going to get clubbed over the head for my shoes!  Due to these confrontations, I changed my direction ‒ forward and back ‒ never seeing either of those characters again. Whew!

During the second Santa Monica meet-up, two of my younger teammates beat my time. I was appalled! Heck, a few of my teammates even ran up and down 27 concrete steps during these practices. I was jealous yet did not bust my butt to kill myself. I wanted to enjoy this experience.

Over the following seven months, I raised the required $3,000 plus, including the $672 roundtrip flight cost. My ego became inflamed once again and I was un-shy to ask for monetary donations from the restaurants I had passed daily. Employees and managers of numerous public establishments had seen and wondered about me. One seafood restaurant gave me a check for $50; another Bar & Grill gave me a check for the same. Other checks were made out to the ADA. Onward bound!

On and on, my pleas for help for a cure of diabetes brought monetary success. Family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances of friends, medical doctors, etc. – I asked almost everyone I met or came in contact with. Blessings and good wishes poured in along with cash and personal checks! I was going to be part of the cure for this baffling disease. I knew it in my heart and soul!

Sure, not everyone believed in my hopes and dreams for a cure of diabetes, but I remained upbeat, positive, and pressed forward.

Scheduled for October 30th, this “Friendly Marathon” brought me a delightful, anticipatory planned flight to the other side of the world.  My excitement overflowed through this overall participation and my having made such a huge commitment.

Taking a pre-planned two-week, paid vacation from work, I left Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on October 25th for the 12-hour flight to Dublin International Airport (DUB), and arrived on October 26th.  During the flight, I witnessed the awesome time change in the sky, from very dark for seconds to a bright dawn that continued in the same five seconds. Awesome! My spirit was aflutter with this experience. This endeavor was meant to be, I knew it.

Upon landing, the scent of rain filled the air, immediately invigorating and awakening my senses to the surroundings. Not having reviewed weather reports before leaving California, I thought I had all I needed. This early-bird arrival allowed me to get to my Dublin city hotel with plenty of time to get settled in and become familiar with my surroundings: restaurants, shops, theatre, etcetera. I was psyched and ready for my first marathon in an unfamiliar and strange country.

The following day, leaving the comfort of the Jury’s Royal Hotel room, I wandered its lobby collecting various pamphlets of sights to see as a tourist. Despite reading the colorful and delightful variations of many different brochures with interesting venues, I knew I was here for one thing – the marathon. I was already living a dream just being here without the enticement of touristy ventures. I was glad to have brought my old faithful hooded, winter butt-covering coat since the weather was unusually bitter cold and rainy. The country was experiencing “the worst storm in fifty years.” Having to purchase a knit cap big enough to cover my ears for warmth along with woolen gloves in the hotel’s gift shop, I carefully bounded through the surrounding neighborhood within walking distance of the hotel. I wrapped my sock-covered feet in plastic bags for extra warmth and resilience in my sturdy rubber boots. Numerous people walked the streets in long wool coats, covering their heads and faces with scarves and hats for protection from the non-stop cold wind and heavy rains.

Grey hues in the sky matched the light gray and brown cobblestone streets and walkways. Cobblestones. I was used to seeing such a thing in movies, but coming up close and personal with having to walk on them became mandatory. They were unavoidable yet delightfully different at the same time, although a bit cumbersome to walk upon.

The hotel restaurant’s numerous hot meals whetted my appetite. Irish Stew with lamb or beef, vegetables and potatoes; bacon and cabbage with a side of brown bread; something called a “rasher” and something else called a “Blaa.” Prime rib with mashed potatoes, brown gravy and green beans ‒ sounded tasty, safe and familiar ‒ along with a leafy salad was available as well. Mm. Something called a “Colcannon” that consists of a bowl of potatoes mashed with milk, butter, scallions and kale; another available item called a “Carvery” would take too long to explain. The warm, freshly home-made lamb stew was a great choice on my first visit on this cold and wet weather day.

I realized it was October 28th meaning I had actually lost a day due to jet-lag. I wondered about the other ADA team member marathon participants, hoping to meet with them. I sighted only one team member from the Santa Monica runs who stayed in the same hotel. Come to find out, others were in different hotels scattered around Dublin, not to arrive until later.

6:00AM, October 30th, marathon day, I taxied with two other marathoners to our designated starting point. Although the rain calmed to a drizzle, during this exciting set-up and meet-‘n-greet, plastic trash bags were offered as body covers to the racers as wet gear protection with racing numbers safety-pinned to the fronts and backs.

I was ready!

Many times during this long, Ireland, walk-run, I purposely slowed down to admire Ireland’s beauty: ancestral, ivy draped stone buildings, wildly rushing streams, and the tremendous amount of bars as we wogged out of the city. Separated by speed, in no hurry and often left behind, I wogged alone. Realizing this, I decided to become a tourist after six hours, when I accomplished the 20-mile mark, a sharp, right knee pain gave me reason to stop.

That’s it, I thought. I fulfilled my promises to myself, the diabetics of the world and the ADA. Climbing aboard a readied and pre-planned ambulance for a return ride to the hotel, I certainly was not the only one to stop early. We were each wet from the inside out due to the rain and sweat, so the warmth of the ambulance was most welcoming.

Once showered, comfortable, and full of some delicious Colcannon, I began to plan for the rest of my stay. The following day, I stiffly walked to Dublin’s nearby ‘rail tour/bus’ office for a meandering, half-day trip into the Wicklow Mountains, the ancient and monastic home of St. Kevin, along coastal scenery, and into Glendalough and The Vale of Clara. Due to the continuous heavy rains with flooding in areas, the tour bus carefully slowed down, causing the tourist company’s scheduled events to change. I didn’t care. I felt safe, happy, warm. For 24Ł, this experience could not be passed up.

Heading back to Dublin, this tour bus coasted through Cork, Limerick (home of author Frank McCourt), and through the cities of Cashel, Cahir and Clonmel. We passed miles and miles and acres and acres of bright green, healthy grasslands nourishing goats, cows, sheep, lambs, lambs and more lambs. Hmm, I couldn’t help but wonder if the delicious lamb stew I had the day before had come from this beautiful pasture.

The early morning of November 1st found me on a tour bus to the historic city of Kilkenny. I greatly enjoyed a different yet delightfully delicious stew in the Witch’s House’ Restaurant/Pub before crossing the street to a jewelry store. Yes, a delicate pair of emerald earrings came into my possession. Continuing along the east coast, the tour continued to the Waterford Crystal Factory, which is spectacular. I learned the ingredients in making lead crystal wares are a certain type of sand, potash, and red-lead. Most interesting ─ and expensive ─ but I sent home a beautiful, lead-crystal, cut-glass whiskey decanter along with a decorative vase of the same design.

On November 2nd, I made the tough decision to wander the streets of Dublin alone. After checking my expense account from the former purchases, I was good to go. Walking through the continuous rain along with numerous other people, I felt comfortable blending right in and happily found a gift shop where I purchased an Ireland shaped magnet to add to my prodigious ‘refrigerator magnet’ collection. I roamed the outer and inner grounds of Trinity College, and continued to the beatific Christ Church Cathedral near the Dublin Castle. Tired and cold, I hopped onto a convenient city bus back to Jury’s Court. Buses were available every 15 minutes.

The next day, November 3rd, I purchased another bus ticket at 7 AM for a day trip to a place called The Burren, known for its scenic landscapes; onto The Cliffs of Moher, that included breakfast; then to Galway Bay, with a lunch stop at a seafood pub. There was enough time to enjoy a pint of Guinness beer while befriending another passenger with small talk of home. Back at the Jury’s Hotel after 10 PM, exhaustion put me to bed fully clothed.

By now I was out of clean clothes, so I found the hotel’s laundry useful. Purchasing ‘slots’ at the information desk, I was directed to the laundry area, ready to use the machines, and bought vending machine laundry detergent. Never having done this in my own country, I chalked this up to another experience. This time also allowed me to relax and rest my knee by using a hotel towel full of machine ice on my knee. That helped.

Finally, the rain stopped on November 5th. Hallelujah! This day, another point of interest offered Italian Gardens, Tower Valley, Japanese Gardens, Winged Horses, Triton Lake, a Pets Cemetery, Dolphin Pond, Walled Gardens, and Bamber Gate ─ all in one place. The history of these grounds begins in the 1840s, taking “one hundred men twelve years to complete.” I did not view all these areas because my intermittent knee pain caused me to rest on the tour bus. No matter. Bus driver Owen and I befriended each other for the duration. His thin frame topped off with fluffy white, thick curly hair, remained seated in the driver’s seat as he fondly spoke of growing up on the island. His light blue eyes sparkled through his stories. I intently listened to his smooth Irish brogue.

After a restful, peaceful sleep, November 6th greeted me with light grey rains as opposed to the former days of torrential downpours. My spirit remained heightened for the days’ plans: a train ride past The Giant’s Causeway, through the Glens of Antrim, and onto viewing the Wild Atlantic Coast but not for long. The downpours returned. This trip had to be halted due to a fallen tree blocking the train tracks. Another passenger invited to play dominoes, and we pleasantly passed the time. Stuck on that train for I can’t remember how many hours, I fell asleep at one point after being told that the food ran out. Oh well. I remained happy to be where I was ─ in Ireland.

Finally, another train pulled, or slowly dragged, the original passenger train all the way back to Connolly Station in Dublin. Gosh I had never experienced that that kind of rescue before.

The whole trip was definitely something to write home about. I truly cannot state which was my favorite site or favorite experience. It was all good. Would I wog it again? Yes indeed!

Just sharin’ a lighthearted story, right? I hope you enjoyed it! #buckroth

Destination The World NCPA Anthology 2020, Volume One, © 2020. “An Irish Wog” page 34. Available at Amazon.com.

 

“Biohackers to Share How To Make Insulin With the Public”

“A hundred years ago, scientists began researching how to make insulin using pancreases from dogs and cattle. Insulin has been used to treat people suffering with diabetes ever since, but it wasn’t until the 80s that genetic engineering allowed for the widespread distribution of this life-saving medicine.

“In a healthy human body, insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that controls glucose levels in the bloodstream. But a diabetic’s body doesn’t naturally produce insulin, which means the body can’t store glucose for later use as energy in fat cells.

“Because of this, the fat cells break down and over-produce keto acids — the organic compounds responsible for converting glucose into energy — leading to acid levels that are too high for the liver to withstand. Should a diabetic not have access to insulin, this acid imbalance can trigger diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition. This is why monitoring insulin levels and using medicine is critical to survival for diabetics.

“Today, over seven million Americans with diabetes use at least one form of insulin to treat the disease, but many are at risk of not getting the care they need. The American Diabetes Association reported that 25% of patients have turned to self-rationing their medication to deal with its ever-increasing price tag.”

“Why is Insulin So Expensive?

“The standard process for how to make insulin involves growing it in common bacteria, such as E. coli or yeast, with the help of an amino acid sequencing machine. It’s estimated that a vial of insulin costs pharmaceutical companies five to six dollars to manufacture, but because of a complicated web of regulations those companies are able to sell vials for $180-400.

“Rising costs are nothing new. Insulin prices tripled from 2002 to 2013, and doubled between 2012 and 2016. To put this into perspective, in 1996 a vial of Humalog produced by Eli Lilly cost $21. Today, it’s priced at $324 despite the cost of production remaining steady. For those who rely on several vials per month, expenses can quickly end up in the thousands.

“In the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, 90% of the global insulin market is owned by three companies: Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi. These companies essentially have a monopoly on the market; there is simply no competition to drive the price down. And further, their price increases have remained consistent with one another over time.

“Every person with type I diabetes relies on insulin to survive, and many are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their necessary dosage. Big pharma is clearly taking advantage of this vulnerable part of the population, gorging themselves by charging astronomical costs and pricing out those who can’t afford to keep up”.

“Biohackers to Share How To Make Insulin With the Public”

“A group of dedicated biohackers believes that making insulin more accessible requires taking the monopoly away from the big three pharmaceutical companies that produce it. So they’ve started the Open Insulin Foundation, a non-profit with plans to develop the world’s first open-source insulin production model.

“The team consists of dozens of volunteers led by founder Anthony DiFranco, a type I diabetic. They’re now able to produce the microorganisms needed for insulin with a bioreactor. They’re also working to develop equipment that can purify the proteins produced by the bioreactor.

“With open-source hardware equivalent to proprietary bioreactors, the foundation hopes to give labs across the world access to the equipment needed to produce the insulin protein on a small scale.

“Very few people really have any concrete ideas about how to solve these problems,” says DiFranco. “At the level of the technical fundamentals, it’s clear that we can do this. And if we can, we must.”

“But the process hasn’t been easy. For six years, DiFranco’s team has attempted to reverse-engineer the production of insulin with volunteer-led experiments at their community labs in cities like Oakland, Baltimore, and Sunnyvale, CA.

“Today, they’re beginning to see hopeful signs of a major breakthrough — like getting an FDA-approved protocol for making injectables. The team estimates that costs will be 98% cheaper than big pharma, reaching prices as low as $5-15 per vial. The best part? They’re willing to give away their plans for how to make insulin for free.

“Our plan is to have a system for local production that can operate anywhere in the world that there is a need for it,” explains DiFranco. Open Insulin has already partnered with community labs, academic institutions, patient advocacy groups, and NGOs across the country and beyond.

“They hope their work eventually leads to the distribution of insulin in countries that don’t currently have access to it. “There was a time for being angry,” says DiFranco. “Now that we can actually see an end to this soon, it’s not anger anymore. It’s just determination.”

Found on Facebook.com, Monday, August 25, 2021. Posted by Christine Alm. Thank you Christine!

Just sharin’.  A. K. Buckroth

The color of your Urine and what it may tell about You!

“Historically, looking at urine has been a way for doctors to gauge a person’s health, especially before other types of testing were available. If you’ve had diabetes for a long time or know someone who has, you’ll know that urine testing was a way to figure out how well controlled (or uncontrolled) a persons’ diabetes was — this was done in the days before blood glucose meters were available. Now, of course, we have more sophisticated tools to convey glucose information. But urine still has its place. In fact, the color, smell and consistency of your urine can give you and your doctor helpful information about what might be going on in your body.”

What is urine?

“Urine is a waste product that contains breakdown products from food, drinks, medicines, cosmetics, environmental contaminants and by-products from metabolism and bacteria. Amazingly, urine contains more than 3,000 compounds — much more than what’s found in other body fluids, such as saliva or cerebrospinal fluid. The kidneys do a remarkable job of filtering and concentrating to help get these compounds out of the body (you can understand why keeping your kidneys healthy is so important). So, what is your urine telling you?”

If your urine is…

Bright yellow

“This may look alarming, especially when your urine seems to be glowing in the dark. But don’t worry — the bright yellow color is likely due to vitamins, specifically, B vitamins and beta carotene.

Green or blue

“Green or blue urine seems like something straight out of a science fiction movie, but the color is very likely due to certain medicines that you’re taking, such as amitriptyline, indomethacin (brand names Indocin, Indocin SR, Tivorbex) or propofol (Diprivan). Your urine might also be green or blue due to food dyes or, possibly, a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Orange

“Certain medications, such as rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine, Azulfidine EN-Tabs, Sulfazine, Sulfazine EC), and phenazopyridine (Pyridium, used to treat UTIs, and others), laxatives, and some chemotherapy drugs can turn your urine orange. Orange urine may also be a sign of liver problems or dehydration.

Brown

“Brown or tea-colored urine can result from antimalarial drugs, certain antibiotics, and laxatives that contain senna or cascara. Fava beans, rhubarb and aloe can also darken your urine, as can some kidney and liver disorders, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Red or pink

“Red or pink urine can be a sign of something serious…or not. Red urine may be due to the presence of blood, and that’s always somewhat concerning. Blood in the urine may be a sign of a UTI, enlarged prostate, a tumor, kidney or bladder stones, menstruation or injury to the urinary tract. It can also occur if you take blood-thinning medicine or aspirin. Less alarming causes of red urine are beets, berries and rhubarb.

Cloudy

“Cloudy urine can result from a UTI, vaginal infection, or dehydration. If the urine is more milky in appearance, that may be due to the presence of bacteria, mucus, fat, or red or white blood cells.

“By the way, “healthy” urine should be pale yellow or straw-colored in appearance.”

Just sharin’! A. K. Buckroth

“New post on The Stem Cellar”

City of Hope scientists use stem cells to develop ‘mini-brains’ to study Alzheimer’s and to test drugs in development

by Yimy Villa

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. According to the non-profit HFC, co-founded by CIRM Board member Lauren Miller Rogen and her husband Seth Rogen, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S and it is estimated that by 2050 as many as 16 million Americans will have the disease. Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in the U.S. without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression, which is it is crucial to better understand the disease and to develop and test potential treatments.

It is precisely for this reason that researchers led by Yanhong Shi, Ph.D. at City of Hope have developed a ‘mini-brain’ model using stem cells in order to study Alzheimer’s and to test drugs in development.

The team was able to model sporadic Alzheimer’s, the most common form of the disease, by using human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a kind of stem cell that can be created from skin or blood cells of people through reprogramming and has the ability to turn into virtually any other kind of cell. The researchers used these iPSCs to create ‘mini-brains’, also known as brain organoids, which are 3D models that can be used to analyze certain features of the human brain. Although they are far from perfect replicas, they can be used to study physical structure and other characteristics.

The scientists exposed the ‘mini-brains’ to serum that mimics age-associated blood-brain barrier (BBB) breakdown. The BBB is a protective barrier that surrounds the brain and its breakdown has been associated with Alzheimer’s and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases . After exposure, the team tested the ‘mini-brains’ for various Alzheimer’s biomarkers. These markers included elevated levels of proteins known as amyloid and tau that are associated with the disease and synaptic breaks linked to cognitive decline.

Research using brain organoids has shown that exposure to serum from blood could induce multiple Alzheimer’s symptoms. This suggests that combination therapies targeting multiple areas would be more effective than single-target therapies currently in development.

The team found that attempting a single therapy, such as inhibiting only amyloid or tau proteins, did not reduce the levels of tau or amyloid, respectively. These findings suggest that amyloid and tau likely cause disease progression independently. Furthermore, exposure to serum from blood, which mimics BBB breakdown, could cause breaks in synaptic connections that help brains remember things and function properly.

Image Description: Yanhong Shi, Ph.D.

In a press release from the Associated Press, Dr. Shi elaborated on the importance of their model for studying Alzheimer’s.

“Drug development for Alzheimer’s disease has run into challenges due to incomplete understanding of the disease’s pathological mechanisms. Preclinical research in this arena predominantly uses animal models, but there is a huge difference between humans and animals such as rodents, especially when it comes to brain architecture. We, at City of Hope, have created a miniature brain model that uses human stem cell technology to study Alzheimer’s disease and, hopefully, to help find treatments for this devastating illness.”

The full results of this study were published in Advance Science.

Dr. Shi has previously worked on several CIRM-funded research projects, such as looking at a potential link between COVID-19 and a gene for Alzheimer’s as well as the development of a therapy for Canavan disease.

“…to help combat immune related problems….”

New post on The Stem Cellar

Improving a special kind of cell to help combat immune related problems

by Yimy Villa

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are a type of immune cell that play an extremely important role in maintaining stability in the body and preventing the body’s immune system from attacking its own cells and organs. This unique property makes Tregs extremely valuable to researchers as a potential treatment for immune related issues. One of these is autoimmune disease, which is a disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks healthy cells. Some examples of this are type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Another immune related issue is graft vs. host disease (GvHD), which can occur after receiving a transplantation where the donated bone marrow or stem cells start attacking the recipient.

For this reason, researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) and Emory University School of Medicine, partially supported by a CIRM training grant , have been working to generate stable induced Tregs (iTregs) for treating autoimmune diseases and rejection of a transplanted organ. The teams were led by LJI professor Anjana Rao, Ph.D, and Emory instructor Benjamin G. Barwick, Ph.D. The two team study showed evidence that vitamin C and and specific proteins called TET can be combined to give Tregs their life-saving power. Studies have previously found that vitamin C can enhance the activity of TET proteins and prompt the generation of stable iTregs under lab conditions.

For this study, the researchers also analyzed gene expression patterns as well as changes that altered the physical structure of DNA in the induced Tregs. The team found a major modification involving the DNA itself and showed that TET enzymes were also involved. All of these interactions can eventually change how cells “read” the DNA code. They also observed the alteration of DNA accessibility which depends on whether DNA is loosely or tightly coiled. As the DNA coils unwind, regulatory regions become exposed which subsequently influence gene expression.

In a news release, LJI instructor Xiaojing Yue, Ph.D elaborated on the results of this study.

“Vitamin C can be used to stabilize iTregs generated in vitro. We hope that these kinds of induced Tregs can be used in the future for treatment of autoimmune diseases and organ transplantation.”

The full study was published in EMBO reports.

“World Sickle Cell Day”

An Open Letter to CIRM for World Sickle Cell Day

“Dear CIRM,

World Sickle Cell Day is this Saturday June 19th. The goal of this day is to increase knowledge of the disease and understanding of the challenges faced.

“It is a day that I greet with very mixed feelings.  I’m of course extremely grateful to CIRM for the time and money spent looking for a cure.  The work of doctors, of researchers, the courage of families in the sickle cell community who are taking part in studies, and of course those of you who worked so hard for the original funding for CIRM, I applaud all of you, yet it’s hard to wait for a cure.

“While I wait I worry. I worry about my friends who are not getting good care.  They are the ones who can’t find a doctor to treat them, not able to take advantage of the medications that are already approved.  They are the ones who walk into the Emergency Room hoping for knowledgeable treatment while understanding that they may be accused of being a drug seeker,  turned away in excruciating pain. They are the ones who succumb after years of poor care.

“With sickle cell disease there is the same level of understanding about medical malpractice that we had of police brutality before George Floyd. We hardly remember Rodney King or Eric Garner. As a country we were aware that something was wrong but we tended to retreat in denial after each terrible headline.

“That’s where we are with sickle cell disease.  We may see a heart-wrenching story and watch televised reports with interest, but after all, it’s easier to live in disbelief, to think that medical care is not that bad, rather than understand that people are being dismissed and denied treatment. We call it structural racism without understanding what that term really means.

“While I wait I must acknowledge that change is coming.  We have a Sickle Cell Data Collection Project in California that helps us track healthcare for sickle cell disease. This is data that we can use to point to structural weakness and address health disparities.  NASEM, the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine, has published a huge report with significant suggestions for improving sickle cell care. Many scientists, researchers and advocates took part in this landmark study, detailing what has gone wrong in health care and how to improve the work. And of course we have CIRM. I am very thankful for the leadership and pioneering work of doctors Donald Kohn, Matthew Porteus and Joseph Rosenthal who are using their knowledge and experience in this fight.

“When we have successful research on stem cell transplants for sickle cell disease, many of us with sickle cell family members will want to relax, but we can’t forget those who may not be able to get a curative transplant. I hope Dr Niihara at Emmaus, and Dr. Love of Global Blood Therapeutics will continue their important work finding effective treatments. We must continue this fight on all fronts.

“World Sickle Cell Day will come again next year.  Let’s see what it brings.

“A sickle cell grandmother, “Nancy M. René.”

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