The test was just a precaution. Becky Murphy, a healthy 14-year-old, had shown no sign of diabetes. But her cousin had the disease, so the doctor recommended she and her siblings get screened.
The news wasn’t good. The test results showed she was, in fact, genetically at risk. Within months, she was showing symptoms, and the disease was full-blown by the time she was a college freshman.
Luckily, Becky had a partner in Desmond Schatz, M.D., a UF pediatric endocrinologist who had been tracking her progress. “I know that by being in the UF diabetes program and taking insulin before I had the disease has helped me,” says Becky, now 29. “I haven’t had the side effects that many people with diabetes struggle with.”
So when another genetic test revealed her newborn son was also at risk for type 1 diabetes, Becky enrolled him in a UF research program that tracks children in hopes of finding a link between those who develop it and those who don’t.
“The hope is thay will find a common link as to what my trigger diabetes,” says Becky, a mother to Jackson, 2, and another son on the way.
The ultimate goal, of course, is a cure. But the first step is to find out what perfect storm of environmental, genetic and immune factors cause the disease in patients such as Becky.
For more than two decades, UF clinicians like Schatz and bench scientists like pathologist Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., one of the most oft-cited diabetes researchers, have been united by a single promise…that they will work hard to uncover what causes diabetes and seek ways to better treat it.