On June 23, 2022, the SVA theater in Chelsea, NYC premiered The Human Trial, a documentary that chronicles the life of two people dealing with the adversities of Type 1 diabetes.
The film, directed and narrated by Lisa Hepner, tells the stories of Maren and Gregory who have battled the disease for over three decades. Both sign up to become trial patients in a study done by the biotech company, ViaCyte, seeking a cure for type 1 diabetes.
After countless surgeries to implant and explant stem cells in Greg and Maren, the pair did not experience a complete diabetes reversal after their volunteering for the trial. Maren was pulled out much sooner than Greg, and each patient’s response to the cells varies time-wise.
Hepner, who follows Maren and Greg through the clinical trial also shares common ground with the study subjects, as she has battled type 1 diabetes for 32 years.
As of 2022, Type 1 diabetes affects roughly 1.6million Americans a year, including 200,000 children, according to Single Care.
It is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own insulin-producing cells. This means that people with type 1 diabetes have to inject insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels so they avoid short and long term complications.
You can’t walk around with type 1 diabetes. When it develops, the symptoms are acute, and within 96 hours (on average), you could die without insulin. Your body essentially dies of starvation because without insulin you can not breakdown carbohydrates to feed you.
The Human Trial focuses on the importance of funding scientific research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. The researchers have proven efficacy in multiple patients, and are now working with CRISPR Therapeutics to design a stem cell line that evades the immune system.
Despite the challenges Maren and Gregory faced during their clinical process, the pair courageously became the pioneers of being one step closer to the development of the type 1 diabetes cure.
Whether the cure is five or eight years away, we will never know. But The Human Trial paved the way for the conversation that a cure for this debilitating disease is long overdue.
The Knockturnal: How was it like following these stories of those afflicted with T1 diabetes?
Hepner: “It’s very personal because I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 32 years. And I felt like I was in a really, you know, lucky position to tell the stories of other people who are suffering from it. I just feel like I’m a vessel for this story.”
The Knockturnal: What is the main takeaway you want people to know about this documentary?
Hepner: “The main takeaway is that this disease can be cured. The science is close, we just need the proper resources to support it. We just need to take a look at what we did with Covid-19 vaccine, and how quickly we got shots in arms. The science was there, it just needed the support from a lot of institutions to get it to the people. We should learn from this, and apply this model to not only type 1 cure research, but to chronic diseases as well.”