A cure for Type I diabetes?

By | December 16, 2006

Diabetes breakthrough

Before you get too excited, let me say this: from my read of the article, it’s a long time before humans could benefit, and even when they can, you’ll probably have to catch it within a certain amount of time.

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body’s nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

The link to the nervous system is the breakthrough idea. Until this point, the auto-immune system was seen as the problem. But recently the researchers in the article tried a nerve inhibitor that actually removed the disease from infected mice.

In diabetes, the inflammation (and eventually death) of pancreatic islet cells, which produce the insulin we all need to convert sugar to energy, is the root of the problem. The researchers concentrated on the nerves surrounding these cells, and told them to stop firing “emergency” messages to the nervous system. In the mice, this caused the islet cells to recover and begin functioning normally again. In other words, they were cured.

(Note: obviously the islet cells have to be inflamed, not dead, for this to work. That’s why I said at the beginning that you’d have to catch the disease within a certain period of time.)

Obviously if this holds true for humans as well, this is an incredibly huge development, not just for Type I, but for Type II diabetes as well:

They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar.

While this study concentrates solely on Diabetes Type I (or Juvenile Onset Diabetes), other diseases not previously linked to the nervous system may benefit from this research as well:

They also conclude … that nerves likely play a role in other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as asthma and Crohn’s disease.

This is potentially the biggest medical breakthrough since curing polio. Here’s hoping the research proves to be true and transferable to humans!

[tags]diabetes, medical breakthroughs, medical research, nervous system[/tags]

Leave a Reply