Federal cuts threaten diabetes research

Beth Trent with Lanie
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Possible life-saving drugs are in danger of never getting to the people in need. The proposed federal cuts slated to go into effect Friday could slash the budgets of research labs and hospitals in Indiana and across the country.

One of the people that is waiting for a cure is11-year-old Lanie Trent of Clinton County. She has to poke her finger and test for blood sugar at least four times a day, and will have to do so for the rest of her life.

Lanie is a Type 1 diabetic. The day she was diagnosed was almost her last. She and her mother had been on a field trip to the zoo. Most of the trip down, Lanie was asleep and nauseous.

Late in the afternoon her mother took Lanie to the family doctor and a simple test confirmed she was diabetic. It was just in time. She couldn't walk or talk and had been nauseous for hours and could not stay awake.

Lanie was close to a diabetic coma. Her mother, Beth Trent, took Lanie straight to Peyton Manning's Hospital for Children.

Trent said she told the doctor she likely would have put Lanie to bed if she hadn't gone to the hospital.

"She said she would have been gone in a hour if you had put her to bed. She was that ill," said Trent.

Lanie is now using an insulin pump to regulate her blood sugar and today was in for one of three yearly visits to her doctor - a visit her mother would rather not have to make three times a year in addition to the added worry.

"I would give anything if I could take this and she could be healthy and happy," said Trent.

That's where Dr. Pat Fueger comes in.

"I was diagnosed right across the street at Riley," said Dr. Fueger. He was 12 years old when he was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic. His two brothers share the same diagnoses.

Fueger is now on staff at Indiana University School of Medicine as a diabetic researcher. He says the proposed federal cuts have the potential to set back research like his and that of others ten years.

"It could really could and what we would hate to have is cures sitting on the laboratory bench right here that cannot get to market and cannot make it to people because we have had to abruptly stop the scientific progress," said Dr. Fueger.

A grant from the The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation funds part of Dr. Fueger's work. Federal money keeps the lights on, buys equipment and pays for the building. With federal cuts on the horizon, his lab, along with others, are not hiring people and have put off long term projects.

"It is hard to imagine what types of cures and treatments are going to be left on the table because we just don't have the funds to do it," he said.

Continued funding would also mean peace of mind for a mother.

"I want something between now and the time she is on her own to be a better way for her to be okay," said Trent.

Without Congressional action by the end of the week, mandatory cuts are coming. How much is still in question. Many labs operate on a shoestring budgets in the first place any cuts to funding could end several projects that took years to build.