Type 1 Diabetes is in the news this week as a promising study in New York, NY by Columbia researchers have stumbled across finding that cells int he patient’s intestine could be coaxed into making insulin, stopping the need for a stem cell transplant.
Up until now stem cell transplants have seen to be the only way to replace cells lost in type 1 diabetes this new research if successful in the trials will be a way to free the patient from having to inject daily.
Type 1 Diabetes looks promising:
At this stage as with all new research in its infancy stages the research was recently conducted on mice and findings published 11 March 2012 in the journal Nature Genetics.
The study, conducted by Chutima Talchai, PhD, and Domenico Accili, MD, professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. Drs. Talchai and Accili says–
“our results show that it could be possible to regrow insulin-producing cells in the GI tracts of our paediatric and adult patients.” “Nobody would have predicted this result,” Dr. Accili adds.
“Many things culled have happened after we knocked out Foxo1. In the pancreas, when we knock out Foxo1, nothing happens. So why does something happen in the gut? Why don’t we get a cell that produces some other hormone? We don’t yet know.”
As stated the research is in the early stages with more questions than answers still not found but insulin-producing cells in the gut would be hazardous if they did not release insulin in response to blood glucose levels. But the researchers say that the new intestinal cells have glucose-sensing receptors and do exactly that.
Certainly the researchers know that they are working in the right direction especially since the insulin made by the gut cells also was released into the bloodstream, worked as well as normal insulin, and was made in sufficient quantity to nearly normalize blood glucose levels in otherwise diabetic mice, this was the break through that they wanted.
“All these findings make us think that coaxing a patient’s gut to make insulin-producing cells would be a better way to treat diabetes than therapies based on embryonic or iPS stem cells,” Dr. Accili says. The location of the cells in the gut may also prevent the diabetes from destroying the new insulin-producing cells, since the gastrointestinal tract is partly protected from attack by the immune system.
Type 1 Diabetes Research – Next Steps
The key to turning the finding into a viable therapy, Dr. Accili says, will be to find a drug that has the same effect on the gastrointestinal progenitor cells in people as knocking out the Foxo1 gene does in mice. That should be possible, he says, since the researchers found that they could also create insulin-producing cells from progenitor cells by inhibiting Foxo1 with a chemical.
“It’s important to realize that a new treatment for type I diabetes needs to be just as safe as, and more effective than, insulin,” Dr. Accili says. “We can’t test treatments that are risky just to remove the burden of daily injections. Insulin is not simple or perfect, but it works and it is safe.”
Even though this is music to anyone that has type 1 diabetes and it is a positive step in the right direction it will still take many years before that you can pack away your daily insulin injections forever.