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[IP] Fwd: JDRF Research E-Newsletter #28

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Subject: JDRF Research E-Newsletter #28
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January 14, 2003
No. 28


1.  Immune System Gene Plays Key Role in Diabetes
2.  Pig Islets: A Source for Human Transplantation?
3.  International Research Team Completes Draft of Mouse Genome
4.  The Value of Medical Advances
5.  Special Type 1 Diabetes Funding Boost Signed into Law but 
       Regular NIH Funding in Jeopardy

1. Immune System Gene Plays Key Role in Diabetes
Two JDRF-funded research teams working independently on opposite sides of the globe have published important findings about a gene that helps regulate the immune system. The discoveries at the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School and the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Australia shed new light on the cause of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, and may lead to strategies to block them.

Using complementary approaches, the scientists showed that a gene called Aire plays a key role in identifying potentially harmful immune T cells so they can be deleted before damaging the bodys own tissue. Because type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused mainly by T cells gone awry, insights into how these cells are selected for deletion (or allowed to remain) could be an important step toward developing a diabetes treatment or cure.

The Harvard paper was published in the November 15 issue of Science, and the John Curtin School of Medical Research paper was published in the November 4 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

To read a JDRF story about this research, click below:

To read the abstract of the study in Australia, click below:

2. Pig Islets: A Source for Human Transplantation?
As islet cell transplantation advances and continues to demonstrate promise, the number of transplants that can be performed are limited by a serious shortage of pancreases. Xenotransplantation, transplanting tissue or organs from other species to humans, offers one possible solution. The goal is to produce readily available islets from animals that would not be rejected and would not carry potentially harmful viruses.
Because they are metabolically similar to humans, pigs have been considered especially promising donor sources of cells and organs for transplant into humans.  In whole-organ transplantation from pigs to humans, the human immune system usually attacks the transplanted organ, causing rejection and organ failure.  Researchers have discovered that the target of that attack is the antigen alpha1,3-galactosyl (or Gal), a protein present in pig cells.  Complete removal of Gal from pig organs is considered the critical step towards the success of xenotransplantation. With that goal in mind, two research teams created knockout pigs that lack one copy of the gene responsible for Gal production.  The next necessary step was to breed pigs lacking both copies of the gene. (Each offspring gets a copy from each parent). On December 19, 2002, one of the teams (consisting of researchers at PPL Therapeutics in Scotland and Virginia and at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and C!
hildrens Hospital in Pittsburgh),  reported in the online version of Science that they had succeeded in producing four piglets lacking both copies. This accomplishment brings researchers closer to being able to produce viable pig islets for human transplantation. Before this form of xenotransplantation could become a reality, however, scientists would need to make sure that certain pig viruses called PERVs would not be passed from pig to human as a result of the transplant.
To read the abstract of this study, click below:

3. International Research Team Completes Draft of Mouse Genome
An international consortium of scientists at institutions around the world published the complete set of genetic instructions (genome) of the mouse in the December 5 issue of the journal Nature. This is a landmark scientific accomplishment, and initial comparison of the genome shows it to be quite similar to the human genome. This resemblance should speed efforts to understand the human genome and the roots of genetic disease. To understand the role of any newly found human gene, researchers can identify the corresponding gene in mice, genetically engineer a strain that lacks the gene, and determine from the mouses defects what the missing gene is intended to do.

To see the Nature issue dedicated to the mouse genome, click below:

4. The Value of Medical Advances
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has compiled a useful collection of links regarding biomedical accomplishments and what they have contributed to human health and human society. Included are links to information on the economic cost of illness and estimates of the savings from recent innovations or from anticipated progress. 

To view the FASEB collection of links, click below:

5. Diabetes Funding Boost Signed Into Law but Regular NIH Funding in Jeopardy
On December 17, U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law a landmark bill that will substantially increase and extend funding for the federal Special Diabetes Program.  The bill provides $750 million over five years for type 1 diabetes research, as well as $750 million for diabetes treatment and prevention programs for Native American populations. The historic legislation represents the largest federal funding investment for type 1 diabetes research ever achieved, and is the result of a yearlong advocacy effort by JDRF. 

Special Request: While this funding increase represents a major accomplishment, another recent development threatens to undermine NIHs overall commitment to type 1 diabetes research.  The NIH receives funding for type 1 research from two federal sources  the Special Diabetes Program described above, and the much larger annual budget, which is now in jeopardy.  Congress, under orders from the White House to reduce spending on several of the FY 2003 spending bills, may not be able to pass the appropriation needed to complete the fifth and final year of the bipartisan commitment to double the NIH budget by FY 2003, an effort for which JDRF has been a leader.  Hundreds of patient, medical and health groups are joining together this week in a massive call to action to support NIH funding. JDRFs Government Relations asks you to go to the site http://www.capitolconnect.com/fundnihnow and call and fax your House and Senate members this week, urging them to support the full NIH co!
mmitment to medical research.

To read a JDRF story about the Special Diabetes Program funding increase, click below:

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundations Research E-Newsletter provides information about research on type 1 diabetes and its complications.  Please forward this report to others who may be interested.  To add your name to the distribution list, send an e-mail to email @ redacted <mailto:email @ redacted> with Subscribe to Research E-Newsletter in the subject line and your full name and postal address in the message portion of the e-mail.  If you do not wish to receive future mailings of this newsletter, please send an e-mail to email @ redacted <mailto:email @ redacted> with Unsubscribe to Research E-Newsletter in the subject line.

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