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Mary Rooney, Participant in T Regulatory Cells (Treg) Clinical Study
“Living with type 1 diabetes is like having a second job with no days off,” says Mary Rooney, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 2011.
Having moved to San Francisco a year prior to finalize her doctorate in child psychology, Mary had to manage the stress of being diagnosed with a chronic disease without the benefit of nearby friends and family.
In researching type 1 diabetes, Mary learned that slowing the destruction of beta cells is critical to managing the disease, and she sought out clinical studies in this area. Through her job at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), she learned about three ongoing studies at UCSF’s Pediatric Diabetes Program investigating different approaches to preserving beta cell function, including one evaluating the T Regulatory Cells (Treg) immunotherapy. Mary was eligible for the study, and soon became the first human patient enrolled in the Treg clinical program.
In the study, Mary’s blood was drawn, and after 14 days she was reinfused with the expanded Treg cells. During 24 hours of observation, no adverse events were reported. Follow-up blood tests to measure C-peptide levels – an indicator of pancreatic islets beta cell function – continued for two years.
Today, at 38, Mary is healthy and works as a child psychologist. Managing her diabetes can be demanding, but Mary makes an effort every day to calculate her calorie intake, exercise and monitor her blood sugar. Three years after treatment with Treg, Mary is still in the “honeymoon phase,” the period of time following the onset of diabetes when the pancreas is still able to produce significant amounts of insulin. The “honeymoon phase” period varies for each individual, but seldom lasts more than one year.
Based on what she has learned about type 1 diabetes and Treg from physicians and researchers, Mary now believes that participating in the Treg study was one of the most important decisions she made – and she encourages others diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to investigate all their treatment options as soon as possible following diagnosis.