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

8:00 am by | 12 Comments

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.”

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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.

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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12 comments
Aykut
Aykut

I've been a type I diabetic for 17 years and I lost all my hope for a cure. Not like it's gonna make any difference for me from this point on, since I'm already experiencing the horrendous complications of the disease, but I'd be happy for future generations if this disease were mentioned only in medical history books.

MikeOrsina
MikeOrsina

Life without hope is merely existing.

45yrIDDM
45yrIDDM

I have been on insulin for 45 years and I have been hearing about the "cure for diabetes that is right around the corner" for the last 30 years.  It is simple economics.  Eli Lily, Bayer, and every other drug or diabetic supply company can benefit ONLY from suppressing the cure that I am sure has already been discovered.  The Jonas Salks who gave away the immunization for polio FOR FREE are not present in this current day.  Face it, folks, once your islet cells fail, you will never, ever have a normal life again.  I have been called angry and cynical, but I believe I am just a realist.

clrn12
clrn12

Wow! Sad and angry people. Educate!

texastair
texastair

This is ridiculous reporting that shows a total lack of understanding of the immune system.

My son has Type I; I have a PhD in Molecular Imunology and the comment that by identifyting the trigger you have a treatment is irresponsible. You might have a target for prevention....thats all.

Dr Joshua Tanz
Dr Joshua Tanz

Manny 31 is absolutely right. If the drug companies find or use the cure for diabetes they stand to lose billions and billions of dollars, so why rush to cure millions and millions of lifetime consumers of diabetic supplies, glucose meters glucose pumps.

John74
John74

The fact that its only interesting to the drug companies because their patents are expiring says a lot.

Tom
Tom

please Google Dr Richard K Bernstein and you will see that it's possible to help yourself starting immediately!! low carbing is the ONLY way to control diabetes...it's NOT too late for you!!

dnebdal
dnebdal

@45yrIDDM  

Well,  there are the pancreas(+kidney) transplants that are sometimes done. Sure, living on immunosuppressant drugs isn't a completely "normal life" either, but ...

(Also, there are heaps of non-commercial research groups that'd love to become known as "the lab that cured diabetes". Not all research is for-profit.)

dnebdal
dnebdal

@texastair  

Well, they do list "reduce immunosuppressant use in transplantees"  as a possible use, which sounds plausible.

On a more speculative level: If it's possible to prod stem cells into creating new beta cells, that wouldn't be that useful _today_ ... but combined with a protective agent targeting e.g. this pathway, it might eventually be a useful route.

dnebdal
dnebdal

@Tom That's completely pointless for type I - some random diet isn't going to make his body magically regenerate the cells that produce insulin.