Big News In Medicine — Possible Diabetes Cure?

Last modified on December 15th, 2006

I was coming into work this morning, and I read this on the front page of the Vancouver Sun. This is pretty big news in the medical community. Apparently some researchers at UofT have found a way to reverse diabetes in Type 1 diabetic mice. This is exciting because it was always thought that type I diabetic people lost the ability to produce insulin because their own immune system completely destroyed the beta cells in the pancreas. However, the beta cells in these mice became active again once they had an injection. Here’s the original article.

Also surprising is that this approach also seems to remove the symptoms of type II diabetes (sometimes called hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance). In Type II, the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. So, to reduce the blood sugar in your body, your pancreas has to secrete far larger amounts than normal. This state leads to hardening arteries (since insulin damanges blood vessels), high blood pressure (since your arteries are in a perpetually damaged state), and an eventual burnout of the pancreas (eventually facilitating the need for insulin injections). The approach these researchers took also seems to completely remove the signs of insulin resistance.

“Then we had the biggest shock of our lives,” Dr. Dosch said. Almost immediately, the islets began producing insulin normally “It was a shock ? really out of left field, because nothing in the literature was saying anything about this.”

It turns out the nerves secrete neuropeptides that are instrumental in the proper functioning of the islets. Further study by the team, which also involved the University of Calgary and the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, found that the nerves in diabetic mice were releasing too little of the neuropeptides, resulting in a “vicious cycle” of stress on the islets.

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