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[IP] re: Diabetes Cure in Mice

Here's an article on the topic from Reuters, courtesy
of the NY Times.

My take on this: like all such studies, it needs to
be taken with a grain of salt. First, mice are not 
humans. Second, the possible benefits of research 
like this tend to get played up by the researchers 
for reasons having to do with grants and funding.
(For the conspiracy theorists out there, this is 
one reason that the talk about a cure for diabetes 
is so much more optimistic than the results so far.
Researchers trumpet studies that pan out, and talk
as little as possible about problems and roadblocks
in research -- except to say, "if we only had funding..."
See the instance of this below.)

Anyway, that said, it's pretty cool. I looked for
the journal article, but the Journal of Clinical
Investigation doesn't have its July issue up on its
web site yet.

/Janet Lafler


Diabetes Cure in Mice Offers Hope for Humans - Study



Filed at 0:35 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A simple 40-day treatment that cures type 1
diabetes in laboratory mice might offer hope for humans with the
disease, scientists said in a report out on Wednesday.

About 1 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, also known as
juvenile diabetes because it is often diagnosed in children.

In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, which is
needed to convert sugar into fuel and is normally produced in the
pancreas in cells called islet cells. In people with type 1
diabetes, the islet cells are destroyed by the body's own misguided
immune cells and sugar builds up dangerously in the blood.

In research reported in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical
Investigation, mice with this kind of autoimmune diabetes were
treated for 40 days to re-train their immune systems not to
mistakenly attack islet cells.

This was done in two steps. First, the researchers triggered a
naturally occurring drug called TNF-alpha that killed the rogue
immune cells.

They also injected the mice with donor cells that re-educated their
immune systems so that they would accept islet cells and not
destroy them.


This was encouraging enough, but what surprised the researchers was
that the insulin-producing cells appeared to re-grow in the
diseased mice, providing enough so that their blood sugar came back
to normal.

Up to 75 percent of the mice stayed healthy for 100 days or more
after that, without any further treatment, according to Dr. Denise
Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital, who wrote the study.

``It's really a permanent reversal of an established autoimmune
disease, and if that's not as good as it gets, the next thing that
happens is the islets regenerate in the pancreas,'' Faustman said
in a telephone interview.

Clearly enthusiastic about implications for treating type 1
diabetes in people, Faustman said the main obstacle to human
clinical trials was funding: ``If we had money to produce the drug
and do the treatment, we'd be in clinical trials within a year.''

Dr. David Nathan, director of the diabetes center at Massachusetts
General Hospital, was cautiously optimistic.

``This represents a very new discovery in an animal model of type 1
diabetes that has always been used to predict what happens in human
diabetes,'' Nathan said by telephone.

``However until we explore more thoroughly whether the same
phenomenon that occurs in mice occurs in human diabetes, we have to
be cautious about the potential meaning of these findings ...
whether this may represent the first insight in how to cure type 1
diabetes,'' he said.

Dr. Gerald Bernstein, an endocrinologist affiliated with the
American Diabetes Association, was encouraged by the research.

``I'm optimistic about the concept, about application (to humans)
if you can find people at the right time,'' Bernstein said by
telephone from the association's scientific meeting in

He added that this therapy would also have to be integrated with
screening to see which people were the best candidates. 

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