This story first appeared in Mayo Clinic Magazine.
For Caroline Schlehuber, an artificial pancreas might mean an end to finger pricks, blood reads and daily shots.
Caroline can never escape her diabetes. It was there on her first day of school, at her first communion. It's there every Halloween, every Christmas, every vacation. She's pricked her finger eight to 10 times a day since she was 3 years old, including the six birthdays she's had since she was diagnosed.
She understands that it wasn't her fault that her body turned on itself, that her immune system attacked her insulin-producing islet cells. To quote Caroline, "Diabetes doesn't care how cute you are. Diabetes doesn't care how well you play soccer. Diabetes doesn't care who your friends are or how much your family loves you."
From the outside, her life looks perfectly normal. She plays soccer, swims with friends and goes to ballgames with her family. But in the background is the relentless hum of type 1 diabetes, with vigilant blood sugar surveillance and insulin adjustments.
Her parents, Tom and Michelle Schlehuber, are thankful for the lifesaving medications and technologies that keep their daughter alive, but they pray for the day when Caroline isn't one missed reading away from the emergency room, when her life isn't dominated by glucose meters and insulin pumps.
That day may be closer than they imagined.
The road to discovery is long and riddled with ideas proven wrong. Researchers repeatedly see the most promising ideas fail when subjected to rigorous scientific method. The experience leaves most of them hesitant to use a certain four-letter word — "cure." Instead they use euphemisms like "advancing care" and "better treatments."