Teenagers share dream to find a cure for one of them and millions more with diabetes
Jericho, NY (December 14, 2015) – More than their common birthdays link 17-year-old twins Jake and Michael Carrion from Jericho, NY. Together, they share a dream – finding a cure for diabetes.
When Jake was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 4, it took a tremendous toll on him and changed the lives of the entire family. For Michael, watching Jake take his daily injections and regulating his blood sugar was discouraging and disheartening. As time went on, Jake’s strength and positive attitude was an inspiration for him, but it also brought up many questions. “We’re twins. Why does Jake have diabetes and not me? We share the same DNA,” Michael was deeply moved by Jake’s determination during the earlier years of his struggling with type 1, and together, in time, both their determination and curiosity grew into so much more.
To try and answer their questions, in the summer of 2013 at age 15, they traveled across the Atlantic to the prestigious University of Oxford, England. There, to satisfy their inquisitive nature and find out more about twins and diabetes, they took courses in Genetics and the Frontiers of Modern Medicine.
Although some questions were answered, Jake and Michael knew the best place to go to answer their probing and inquiring thoughts was the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI). They knew about all the new advancements being made in diabetes research at the DRI because of their parents, Debra and John Carrion. John serves as a Northeast Region board member for the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and both Debra and John are creators of the Kids’ Party for a Cure, which over the years has raised more than $1.3 million for research at the DRI. When they returned from their trip abroad, Jake and Michael reached out to Dr. Midhat Abdulreda, assistant professor of surgery at the DRI, to participate in a summer internship. Since joining the DRI in late 2007, Dr. Abdulreda’s research has focused on the immunobiology of type 1 diabetes and islet transplantation with a focus on immune responses against islets and beta cells during development of autoimmunity in T1D and/or after allo-transplantation. Dr. Abdulreda and his team have been using the “living window” model which involves transplanting isolated islets in the anterior chamber of the eye. This has enabled them to reveal significant and novel information about the anti-islet immunity after transplantation. They are also working on harnessing immune privilege of the anterior chamber of the eye to promote better and longer survival of transplanted islets without continuous immunosuppression. This research was right up Jake and Michael’s “microscope.”
“As to my experience with Jake and Michael, I have to start first by expressing how impressed I was by the fact that they wanted to come down from New York to be involved in research on their summer break. That spoke volumes of their motivation and dedication to diabetes research. They asked the right questions and definitely had a noticeable spark in their eyes as they learned about our research area and more about diabetes in general. They had good ideas that are worth investigating,” said Dr. Abdulreda.
He continued, “I was very pleased, and quite frankly proud of them, when they contacted me again to proof read a manuscript they had independently authored on a very interesting subject in diabetes research. As I told them in my feedback on the manuscript, this is the beginning of a very exciting and promising journey of their scientific career. This is what every scientist hopes for, passing on our passion for science and research to future generations. And Jake and Michael are the embodiment of this. I will be looking forward to more good news and exciting research from them.”
As Jake and Michael interned with Dr. Abdulreda they found him and his work “inspiring.” “It is so encouraging to see Dr. Abdulreda and all the other researchers here at the DRI driven as we are and dedicated to advancing the field and finding a cure,” said Michael. “If someone doesn’t know the answer to a question, they will go to great lengths to find the answer. We know the DRI will one day find the cure for diabetes and we are privileged to be part of an internship program here,” said Jake.
Their work did not stop in the summer of 2013. Dedicated to each other and to diabetes research, Jake and Michael spent the summer of 2014 interning at Harvard Medical School, specifically the Department of Microbiology & Immunobiology where they received a stipend for their work, which was entitled “Identification of Differentially Expressed Genes in Pancreatic Regulatory T cell Survival.” This project was then entered and received into the New York State Science & Engineering Fair and the International Science & Engineering Fair.
In the summer of 2015 the Carrion twins went onto intern at the Yale School of Medicine, in the Department of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology. There they wrote “Optimization of B cell-Depleting Therapies for Prospective Type 1 Diabetes Treatment”.
The work that Jake and Michael have done over the years at the DRI, Oxford, Harvard and Yale is a testimony to their dedication to one another as twin brothers, and also their commitment to research. These industrious young men have and will continue to have a common dream – to cure diabetes.