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[IP] Diabetes Research Meeting notes (long)

I thought people might find this interesting. With all the talk of working
for "A Cure", it's nice to see what researchers mean by a cure for diabetes.

Diabetes Research Meeting Reveals Progress Toward Disease Cure in Three
Major Areas First International Progress Report Delineates Significant
Steps Made

November 10, 1998

BETHESDA, Md., Nov. 9 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- Results
presented today at the first International Progress Report on Diabetes
Research show that progress toward devising a cure for the deadly and
proliferating disease is being made in three major areas of scientific

Research efforts to cure diabetes are focusing on treatment innovations
that can: 1) permanently restore normal blood sugar levels in diabetes
patients; 2) prevent and reverse the complications caused by diabetes,
and 3) prevent new cases of diabetes and its recurrence. Among the key
research methodologies for driving this process are: transplantation of
human insulin-producing cells, improvements in transplantation
tolerance, gene transfer and cell engineering, and prevention of kidney
disease and other complications. These topics are the focus of the
Progress Report discussions, which are led by a panel of international

"The process of transferring diabetes treatment theory from the
researcher's bench to the patient's bedside is an arduous but enormously
rewarding one," said Robert A. Goldstein, MD, Ph.D. and vice president
of research at JDF. "And I believe this meeting demonstrates that our
cooperative research capacities offer the necessary tenacity,
imagination and resilience for combating and someday curing this
debilitating disease."

The meeting, held today and tomorrow (November 9-10) at the Natcher
Building in the National Institutes of Health, is co-sponsored by the
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International (JDF) and the National
Institutes of Health (NIDDK, NIAID).

Based on a 1987 report by the National Diabetes Advisory Board, which
called for multidisciplinary research centers to be established as the
best means of accelerating progress toward a cure, the Juvenile Diabetes
Foundation International (JDF) initiated its The Only Remedy is a Cure
Campaign to provide needed funds. This led, in 1990, to JDF's
establishing diabetes research partnerships with the National
Institutes of Health.

These unprecedented partnerships continue to enable a historic
collaboration of leading diabetes researchers with top scientists in
disciplines such as molecular biology, genetics, immunology,
transplantation and cell biology. The result has been the creation of
over 40 public-private partnerships where scientists apply their
specialized knowledge to the search for a diabetes cure. Public and
private funding for these partnerships to date have totaled more than
$150 million.

In the United States, approximately 16 million people have diabetes, and
120 million people worldwide have the disease. The World Health
Organization estimates that the number of people with diabetes will
reach 300 million worldwide by the year 2025.

Progress in the knowledge of the genetic susceptibility, disease
mechanisms, and the autoimmune nature of Type I diabetes, combined with
progress in basic immunology and developmental biology, offers the very
real possibility of preventing many, if not most, new cases of this
disease. Advances in cell biology, developmental biology, molecular
biology and biomedical engineering have made it possible to begin the
design of several new approaches to replacing the insulin-producing
cells that are destroyed in this disease. A greater understanding of the
toxic effects of high blood sugar and its molecular consequences is
leading to new approaches in the prevention and treatment of the
complications of diabetes.

Transplantation and Tolerance

Whole pancreas transplants have become accepted therapy for limited
numbers of patients since the late 1980s. About 95 percent of these
transplants are done in patients who are receiving new kidneys to treat
kidney failure related to long-standing diabetes. According to
statistics from the United Network of Organ Sharing, insulin
independence rates after one year are between 70 and 80 percent.

The downside to the improved quality of life and freedom from insulin
after a pancreas transplant has been the invasive nature of the surgical
procedure and the need to take potentially harmful immunosuppressive
drugs for life.

Transplantation of only the pancreas' beta or islet cells is a far less
invasive procedure, and offer the best near-term hope for restoring
normal blood sugar levels and eliminating insulin injections for large
numbers of patients. About 300 islet cell transplants have been
performed worldwide since 1990. Unfortunately, the success rate remains
relatively low -- only about 5 percent of patients are insulin-free
after a year.

Gene Therapy

Given the difficulty and cost associated with isolating large numbers of
functioning human or animal islet cells, some researchers, using
advanced genetic engineering techniques, have been developing methods
for producing cell lines that simulate the normal insulin-producing
function of these cells. This approach of developing a human cell line
avoids the complications of animal-to-human transplantation while
solving the issue of cell supply.


For those who live with diabetes, preventing its complications is as
critical as curing the disease. Heart disease, kidney failure, stroke,
blindness and amputation can strike individuals who have diabetes.

Diabetes provokes changes that greatly increase the risk of heart
disease, including acceleration of the processes that create fatty
deposits in artery walls. Researchers believe high blood glucose has a
direct, toxic effect on blood vessels and exacerbates the heart's
susceptibility to increased blood flow.

Approximately one-third of people with Type I diabetes will develop
diabetic kidney disease, known as diabetic nephropathy. High levels of
blood glucose are suspected as causing blood vessels of the kidney to be
damaged beyond an ability to perform their vital cleansing of the blood.

Diabetes can also damage the tiny blood vessels of the retina, and
retinopathy is the leading cause of new adult blindness in the U.S.
Diabetes is also the leading cause of disease-related amputation in this
country, and much research is focused on preventing diabetic foot ulcers
and amputations.


Because diabetes usually develops from a combination of genetic
susceptibility and exposure to environmental triggers, researchers are
investigating methods of identifying susceptible individuals, uncovering
triggers, understanding abnormal immune response and preventing cell
destruction. Biochemical antibody tests are becoming more sensitive,
enabling intervention to be directed to the most vulnerable individuals.

The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International

The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International is the world's leading
nonprofit, nongovernmental funder of diabetes research. It was founded
in 1970 by parents of children with diabetes. JDF's mission is to find a
cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research,
and since its inception has given more than $290 million to diabetes
research worldwide. For more information visit the foundation's website:
www.jdfcure.org or call 1-800-JDF-CURE, ext. 536.

SOURCE Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International

/CONTACT:  Julie Kimbrough of Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
International, 212-479-7536/ /Web site:  http://www.scienswwpr.com/
/Web site:  http://www.jdfcure.org/
[Copyright 1998, PR Newswire]

Insulin-Pumpers website http://www.insulin-pumpers.org/