An Update on Perspectives on Type 1 Diabetes Cures (Continued)
Another point that Dr. Harlan made was that researchers, both in academia and pharmaceuticals, will need to find therapies that are reasonable options for patients. People with type 1 diabetes now live longer than ever before, and Dr. Harlan emphasized that we need therapies safe enough to make it worthwhile for patients to take them. If a potential therapy's benefit-to-risk profile favors the latter too much, the therapy will not be viable. Additionally, he argued that the genetic, immunological, and physiological diversity associated with type 1 diabetes has been a large barrier to finding a cure. A greater under- standing of type 1 diabetes in these areas will likely benefit the research that has already been done.
Novel Research Concepts in Type 1 Diabetes Cures
Researchers presented many talks on a wide array of new projects. These varied from encapsulated cell therapy — a pouch of pancreatic cells that release insulin, glucagon, and other pancreatic hormones – to using a vaccine with salmonella to deliver protein therapies. The conference showcased research projects that are in very early stages and that need to be extensively studied before they can begin to reach people. However, it's inspiring to see the avenues scientists are exploring.
In one interesting study, researchers are using the gut immune system to deliver therapies. Dr. Chantal Mathieu (Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium) and her colleagues are using genetically modified lactococcus lactis (bacteria used to make dairy products) to stop the immune system from attacking beta cells. The modifications make the bacteria secrete pro-insulin (the molecule insulin is made from) and interleukin-10 (IL-10; an anti-inflammatory immune system signaling molecule). The researchers examined if feeding these genetically modified bacteria to mice with symptoms of type 1 diabetes could stop the autoimmune attack on beta cells. Researchers hoped that by "presenting" the pro-insulin and IL-10 molecules to the GI tract, the entire immune system would learn to recognize that pro-insulin is safe and stop attacking beta cells. When the mice ingested these bacteria and were treated with a third compound, anti-CD3 (an immune system suppressor), there was long-lasting reversal of diabetes in 59% of the mice. Of course, this is a pre-clinical study done in mice, and past therapies have cured diabetes in mice over 400 times without producing similar results in humans. However, researchers are using creative methods to try to find a cure.
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NOTE: This information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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Most of the time, we bash the lastest news about a "diabetes cure" because it is neither a cure, nor often even a significant improvement in diabetes treatment. Usually these "cures" are tested in mice, but fail to make the leap over to human physiology. Devices may work in the lab, but take decades to pass through FDA review, and still not be much better than what we already have. It's enough to make us all jaded. I know I am. But I saw something...