Wow of the Week: A potential breakthrough toward a cure for type 1 diabetes?

insulinBoston Children’s Hospital stirred up some buzz this week when it said its researchers had made a breakthrough that could change the face of diabetes treatment.

On its Vector blog, the hospital called attention to a study published earlier this year in the journal Diabetes that identified a certain pathway in the body as the cause of type 1 diabetes. A team led by Dr. Paolo Fiorina from the hospital’s nephrology department studied hundreds of pathways in animals with diabetes and isolated one, ATP/P2X7R, as a trigger of T-cell attacks on the pancreas that inhibit its ability to produce insulin.

Whereas people with type 1 diabetes currently inject themselves with insulin to help control their blood sugar levels, a treatment that targeted this pathway (rather than controlling the symptoms of the disease) could change the daily regimen of testing and injecting, and prevent other complications associated with the disease.

“With the cause identified, we can now focus on treatment options,” Fiorina said on the blog. “Everything from drug therapies to transplants that require less immunosuppression is being explored.”


It will be years before potential treatments would even be tested on humans, much less reach the market, but the discovery is a good start. As DailyFinance points out, this kind of research could be of interest to drug companies like Eli Lilly or Sanofi, who have widely used insulins that will lose their patents within the next two years.

Boston Childrens’ nephrology division is the top-ranked among children’s hospitals in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Read more on the research here.