Bears QB Jay Cutler to meet with teens affected by diabetes at University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center on World Diabetes Day

Bears QB Jay Cutler to meet with teens affected by diabetes at University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center on World Diabetes Day

November 13, 2009

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will visit the University of Chicago's Kovler Diabetes Center on World Diabetes Day--Saturday, November 14--from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to share his experience with diabetes with teens affected by the disease and tour some of the world's leading diabetes-research laboratories.

Media interested in covering the event should come to the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, 900, E. 57th Street, by 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Cutler will speak to the press at 11:45. At noon he will pose for photos with teens who have type 1 diabetes.

Cutler, 26, was diagnosed in April, 2008, with type 1 diabetes and has since become a spokesperson for the disease and an advocate for more research. As part of his outreach to diabetes sufferers, he recently recorded six videos that detail his experience with diabetes, its impact on his life and sports career, and how he manages the disease as a professional athlete.

On Saturday, he will connect more directly with about 20 teens who also have type 1 diabetes and trade tips on managing the disease while maintaining an athletic lifestyle. Cutler, the patients and their parents will also tour the research laboratories at the Kovler Diabetes Center to observe cutting-edge science that is improving the understanding and treatment of the disease.

"When I was first diagnosed it was a Wednesday, and I was by myself," said Cutler on one of the videos. "It's tough," he added. "My mother cried for two days straight."

But he quickly learned to live with it and now he wants to "inspire kids that got diabetes at four, five, six years old and they think it's the end of the world, that they can't have dreams and do what they want to do in life--and that's entirely false."

Diabetes affects an estimated 23.7 million Americans, and the number is growing by 1.3 million new cases a year. It is the leading cause of blindness, end-stage kidney disease and amputations.

In type 1 diabetes, which affects about a million Americans, the body stops producing insulin and the hormone must be supplied by injections. Most cases result when the body's immune system destroys its own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Between 90 percent and 95 percent of those with diabetes have the type 2 form of the disease, in which the body stops responding to its own insulin. Type 2 often can be controlled by close monitoring, weight control and medications.

Named in honor of the Kovler family, which has generously supported research at the University of Chicago in cancer, infectious diseases and diabetes for nearly 30 years, the Kovler Diabetes Center brings together patient care with basic science, education and research.

In the Kovler diabetes research laboratories--on the eighth floor of the Gwen and Jules Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, which opened last summer--more than 25 principal investigators and 50 scientists work in labs researching the genetic causes of diabetes, the biology of insulin production and release, autoimmune disorders, and islet transplantation.

"We are delighted to have Jay Cutler visit the University and spend time with us," said Louis Philipson, MD, PhD, director of the Kovler Diabetes Center. "Meeting a high-profile athlete, the starting quarterback for an NFL team, helps drive home that this is a disease that people can not only live with but, with vigilance and state-of-the-art medical care, accomplish remarkable things. We hope that touring the labs will show the kids, and Mr. Cutler, that with our dedication to diabetes research in world-class facilities, our team is working hard to make life with diabetes even better."

The University of Chicago Medical Center, established in 1927, is one of the nation's leading academic medical institutions. University of Chicago physician-scientists performed the first organ transplant and the first bone marrow transplant in animal models, the first successful living-donor liver transplant, the first hormone therapy for cancer and the first successful application of cancer chemotherapy. They discovered the key step in how insulin is made, several genetic causes of diabetes, and have an internationally recognized Diabetes Research and Training Center.