Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

A Diabetes Researcher Forges Her Own Path to a Cure
NY Times ^ | November 9, 2004 | GINA KOLATA

Posted on 11/09/2004 7:06:38 PM PST by neverdem

I BEG TO DIFFER

Dr. Denise Faustman thinks she has a shot at curing diabetes.

She has published one significant scientific paper after another on the disease. She has succeeded in curing it in mice, something no one else has accomplished.

But when Dr. Faustman, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, went looking for money to finance the next stage of her research, testing the ideas with diabetes patients, she could find no backers. Pharmaceutical companies turned her down. So did the Juvenile Diabetes Research Association.

Her approach was criticized, even though in the past, said her boss, Dr. Joseph Avruch, chief of the diabetes unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital, "most of the things she found turned out to be true."

Only the support of Lee A. Iacocca, the former chief of Chrysler, who said he wanted to see diabetes cured in his lifetime, has allowed her to pursue her goal. He mounted an $11 million fund-raising campaign and wrote a $1 million check to start the fund.

The reason for the resistance, Dr. Faustman and some colleagues believe, was simple: her findings, which raise the possibility that an inexpensive, readily available drug might effectively treat Type 1 or juvenile diabetes, challenge widespread assumptions. Many diabetes researchers insist that a cure lies instead in research on stem cells and islet cell transplants.

Dr. Faustman's story, scientists say, illustrates the difficulties that creative scientists can have when their work questions conventional wisdom and runs into entrenched interests. But if she is correct, scientists will also have to reconsider many claims for embryonic stem cells as a cure for diabetes, and perhaps for other diseases.

"I wish Denise well, and I flat out hope she's right," said Dr. Mark Atkinson, a diabetes expert who directs the Center for Immunology and Transplantation at the University of Florida College of Medicine. "But the environment she's trying to move this forward in is so much like kids in a sandbox, whipping sand around. It's hard to see with so much sand in the air."

With many foundations and universities competing for research financing, and with the heated politics of stem cell research, it is no surprise, Dr. Atkinson said, that disputes can sometimes become vitriolic.

In addition, he said, the field has been whipsawed by false hopes.

"I've seen a lot of things in diabetes come and go," Dr. Atkinson said. "For decades we have been told that a cure is just around the corner. That's part of the background, that's why it's emotionally heated."

Dr. Faustman's research began when she came to Massachusetts General in 1985 to help start a program to cure diabetes with transplants of islet cells, which come from hormone-producing regions of the pancreas. She had learned to isolate human islet cells from the transplant technique's developer, Dr. Paul Lacey of Washington University, and she was confident about her skill.

Other scientists had tried the transplants and failed - the islet cells died despite immunosuppressant drugs - but Dr. Faustman thought she would succeed.

"I thought the secret was that my islets were better than anyone else's," she said.

But when she and Dr. David Nathan, the director of the diabetes center at the hospital, tried using her islets, they also failed. So Dr. Faustman decided to go back to the laboratory and study the phenomenon in mice.

Researchers had reported that islet transplants could cure diabetes in mice, but they had been making them diabetic by destroying their islet cells. Dr. Faustman decided to look at mice with a strong genetic predisposition to develop diabetes on their own. When the islet cell transplants failed in those animals, she asked why.

Diabetes occurs when a white blood cell, part of the body's immune system, migrates to the pancreas and mistakenly sees islet cells as foreign tissue. It then multiplies and destroys the islets. But, Dr. Faustman learned, she could block the white cells by supplying them with a piece of protein that signaled that the islet cells were normal cells, rather than foreign invaders.

She also had to stop the attack that was under way in the pancreas. That required killing the white cells that were doing the attacking. Her solution was to give an off-patent drug, BCG, that is inexpensive, $11 a vial, and approved for use as an immune system stimulant. It elicits the release of an immune system hormone, tumor necrosis factor, that kills activated white cells.

After Dr. Faustman gave the mice the two types of treatment, the attack on the islets stopped.

Then, to her astonishment, something else happened: the islet cells grew back, a development that went against everything known by scientists.

The implications, Dr. Nathan said, were enormous. The diabetic mice, he said, had had extremely high blood sugar levels for weeks and would die without insulin. Researchers had successfully intervened earlier in the disease with these animals but not once diabetes was so firmly established.

"No one had cured them," he said. "Here was this treatment that we thought would get them ready for a transplant but - eureka! - the diabetes was cured."

If Dr. Faustman's findings could be applied to humans, there would be no need for islet cell transplants. Embryonic stem cells, which many researchers believed might be turned into islet cells, eliminating the need to get islets for transplants from cadavers, would also be unnecessary.

In fact, the work meant that unless the underlying immune system attack on the pancreas was stopped, these replacement cells would eventually be destroyed anyway, so such treatments would never be a cure.

Dr. Faustman published the work in The Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2001.

"We weren't allowed to use the word 'regenerate,' " she said. "People didn't believe that an organ could regenerate." Instead, she had to say "restoration of insulin secretion by return of blood sugar to normal."

Even though the islet cells were growing back, it was still unclear where the new cells were coming from. Before long, Dr. Faustman had a surprising answer. They were from the spleen, a fist-size organ on the left side of the diaphragm whose pulpy interior is filled with blood.

In a paper last year in Science, Dr. Faustman reported that she had cured female mice of diabetes and transplanted them with spleens from male mice. The islet cells that grew back were male, and they had come from the male spleens.

The findings raised the question of what happens to people who have their spleens removed. Dr. Faustman went to the medical literature and discovered that most spleens were removed in emergency rooms and that few patients were followed afterward, with two exceptions.

One was a group of patients in England with pancreatitis. To treat them, doctors had removed half of the pancreas. When they removed the right half of the organ, the patients were fine. But when they removed the left half, along with the attached spleen, patients often developed diabetes about five years later.

The other case involved children with beta thalassemia, a genetic disease involving iron storage. Often, they developed enlarged spleens, which were removed. Five years or so later, many got diabetes.

The stories about patients who had their spleens removed are not proof that Dr. Faustman's work applies to humans as well as mice.

"Denise's work is remarkable in animals," Dr. Nathan said. "But does it apply to humans? As a clinical investigator, I have to remain skeptical. Scientifically, is it a long shot? I don't know."

Mr. Iacocca's check, and the money he wants to raise, will pay for the initial phase of a clinical trial, the first step for finding out. Dr. Nathan, who will direct the trial, will ask whether BCG kills the islet-destroying white blood cells of patients in the same way it does in mice and, if so, at what dose. Dr. Faustman is working on a blood test that will immediately assess the effects of BCG by determining whether the dangerous white cells are being destroyed.

In the meantime, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is financing an independent effort to replicate Dr. Faustman's work. The researcher, Dr. Anita Chong of the University of Chicago, said her studies were still under way. But, she added, "so far, what we have done replicates what she has done."

For his part, Mr. Iacocca was confident from the start that Dr. Faustman's work was correct. His foundation's scientific advisers strongly endorsed it, and Mr. Iacocca, whose wife, Mary, died of diabetes complications, has a personal interest.

"I can't wait for the pharmaceutical companies or even government tax money to fund what looks promising," Mr. Iacocca said. "They are not known for high risk and they are also slow to react. We are trying to get a cure."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: Massachusetts
KEYWORDS: diabetes; drfaustman; harvard; health; jdrf; medicine

1 posted on 11/09/2004 7:06:38 PM PST by neverdem
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: cpforlife.org; Coleus; Mr. Silverback

I thought you might find this article interesting, i.e. attempting to cure juvenile diabetes without embryonic stem cells.


2 posted on 11/09/2004 7:11:35 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Just like cancer, diabetes is highly unlikely to be cured, not because it's impossible, but because there is too much money involved.


3 posted on 11/09/2004 7:12:11 PM PST by Don W (God KNOWS!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: fourdeuce82d; El Gato; JudyB1938; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; ...

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.


4 posted on 11/09/2004 7:13:13 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: neverdem
Those fools in California may actually be DELAYING cures with their idiotic chasing after sexy science.

The reason for the resistance, Dr. Faustman and some colleagues believe, was simple: her findings, which raise the possibility that an inexpensive, readily available drug might effectively treat Type 1 or juvenile diabetes, challenge widespread assumptions. Many diabetes researchers insist that a cure lies instead in research on stem cells and islet cell transplants.

5 posted on 11/09/2004 7:16:27 PM PST by DManA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

"The reason for the resistance, Dr. Faustman and some colleagues believe, was simple: her findings, which raise the possibility that an inexpensive, readily available drug might effectively treat Type 1 or juvenile diabetes, challenge widespread assumptions. Many diabetes researchers insist that a cure lies instead in research on stem cells and islet cell transplants. "

It's like evolutionists ... they get a theory in their head and you can't get it out even though evidence defies it.

Also you have medical research welfare - people depend on this welfare to make a living. Plus imagine all the jobs that would be lost if there was a SIMPLE inexpensive cure for this. Then pharm companies would not want ot pursue it either because there would be little profit in it.

I also believe the mystery of cancer could be solved if people were allowed to think out of the box.


6 posted on 11/09/2004 7:18:24 PM PST by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

"In the meantime, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is financing an independent effort to replicate Dr. Faustman's work. The researcher, Dr. Anita Chong of the University of Chicago, said her studies were still under way. But, she added, "so far, what we have done replicates what she has done."

Well, others can replicate her results ... hope she has a break through with people. She sounds promising.


7 posted on 11/09/2004 7:20:35 PM PST by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Don W
Back in 1995 Newt Gingrich said that if a cure for diabetes could be found the Medicare budget would be reduced by 30%.

A California reseach team was working on an enzyme that they thought could cure obesity. This research came our of the Genome project that had been fostered by the elder Bush in the late 80s.

In order to test their enzyme treatment they had to develope experimental mice who were obese and then treat them. they did,(creatre obese mice) they treated them and voi la they were cured!!!! BTW obese mice are diabetic. When their obeseness was cured so was their diabetes. Diabetes can be cured we just need to fund the research. The difficulty is delivering the enzyme. An inhaler spray so that the enzymen can get into the blood stream without going through the digestive tract where it would be "digested" is the trick. And in this treatment there is no stemcell or other tricky procedures. Just organically producing the enzyme.

8 posted on 11/09/2004 7:26:28 PM PST by Young Werther
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Thank you for posting this. Our 18 year old son is a Type 1 diabetic and has been for 5 years.

I admired Lee Iacocca so much that the family bought a brand new K-car in 1987. It is our primary family car to this date at 230,000 miles.

Thank you also, Dr., for serving our country in Vietnam.


9 posted on 11/09/2004 7:29:36 PM PST by Edgewood Pilot
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Very interesting, but can we believe anything in the NYT?


10 posted on 11/09/2004 7:34:48 PM PST by expatpat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

bump


11 posted on 11/09/2004 7:38:01 PM PST by Freee-dame
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Thank you so much for this post. My son has had diabetes for 11 years. He is 13.


12 posted on 11/09/2004 7:41:56 PM PST by MarMema (Sharon is my hero)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Please add me! Thank you!


13 posted on 11/09/2004 7:46:20 PM PST by GummyIII (The shortest distance between two people is a smile.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Don W

I'm a Type 1 diabetic and have been since I was nine months old and that is my fear as well. But I have to stay positive. This doctor's research sounds very promising and I hope she continues to receive the financial backing that she needs and that she has the courage to continue her work.


14 posted on 11/09/2004 7:49:10 PM PST by SilentServiceCPOWife (In the smiling twilight of the new political morning, the unwashed told their betters to shove it.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Staggering article. Thanks for posting it.


15 posted on 11/09/2004 7:50:19 PM PST by Alex Murphy (Psalm 73)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Pray for her and her work. Diabetes is a terrible disease.


16 posted on 11/09/2004 7:50:38 PM PST by deaconjim (Freep the world!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: expatpat
Just a few articles I found on her research:

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Article 4

Article 5

Article 6

17 posted on 11/09/2004 7:51:42 PM PST by GummyIII (The shortest distance between two people is a smile.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: expatpat
Very interesting, but can we believe anything in the NYT?

I've been reading the Times for a few decades. The Times slants their articles, or they usually ignore stories if it doesn't fit the party line. For example, they ignore the work of John Lott, the author of "More Guns, Less Crime", and they avoided the Swiftees until they couldn't be ignored any longer.

The author has a reputation to maintain. Maybe the article would have been spiked if the docs in question doing the research were white males. Nonsense like Jayson Blair and his fiction is the exception.

18 posted on 11/09/2004 7:53:25 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

I wihs her well. Diabetes is a horrible disease. I like a lot of people used to think, that it was an easy disease to deal with. It isn't.


19 posted on 11/09/2004 7:53:25 PM PST by knak (The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Thanks for posting. My 12 year old has type 1 and I atteneded a JDRF function this evening. I pray we will find a cure.


20 posted on 11/09/2004 7:55:39 PM PST by gosnaps6
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Don W
diabetes is highly unlikely to be cured, not because it's impossible, but because there is too much money involved.

You maybe right but I hope to hell you're wrong. It's no different than a slow cancer. I've spent time at diabetics bedsides watching them die. It's painful.

21 posted on 11/09/2004 7:56:56 PM PST by lizma
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Explorer89

ping


22 posted on 11/09/2004 8:05:18 PM PST by MrConfettiMan (America replanted a Bush in the WH in '04.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

BTTT for reference...


23 posted on 11/09/2004 8:05:21 PM PST by politicket
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

bttt


24 posted on 11/09/2004 8:26:06 PM PST by lainde
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Young Werther

Don't forget, there are two types of diabetes. The treatments are similar, but the causes and physiology of the two diseases are night and day. Dr. Faustman's treatment only works with type I's who's diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction to the islet cells. Type II is what has to be cured to cut Medicare.


25 posted on 11/09/2004 8:31:36 PM PST by Marie (~shhhhh...~ The liberals are sleeping....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

"her findings, which raise the possibility that an inexpensive, readily available drug might effectively treat Type 1 or juvenile diabetes, challenge widespread assumptions."

Reminds me of the doctor who discovered that the best treatment for stomach ulcers was simply to give the patient a common, inexpensive antibiotic. Other doctors and drug companies were absolutely SURE that he was wrong until success forced them to alter their preconceived notions.


26 posted on 11/09/2004 8:32:42 PM PST by Blood of Tyrants (God is not a Republican. But Satan is definitely a Democrat.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MarMema
My son's one year anniversary is this month. He's 11. Stay strong, mama! Our boys will see it in their lifetime. At the very least, their children won't have to live with this.
27 posted on 11/09/2004 8:32:57 PM PST by Marie (~shhhhh...~ The liberals are sleeping....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Prov3456

Ping to self: read later.


28 posted on 11/09/2004 8:39:24 PM PST by Prov3456
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

bump for later


29 posted on 11/09/2004 8:48:13 PM PST by Centurion2000 (Truth, Justice and the Texan Way)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: zip

ping


30 posted on 11/09/2004 8:55:33 PM PST by Mrs Zip
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem
I've been reading the Times for a few decades.

But it's not the same newspaper since Pinch took over and Rosenthal was fired. Your image of the NYT may be colored by those other decades, not the current version.

31 posted on 11/09/2004 9:02:19 PM PST by expatpat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: neverdem
Good luck to her! Fantastic.

Also shows that even the spleen is important.

32 posted on 11/09/2004 9:02:29 PM PST by Yaelle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Don W

Which is to say, existing structures of ineffective but market dominant technology delivery resist very strongly disruptive technology that actually works, is simpler and costs less.


33 posted on 11/09/2004 9:11:08 PM PST by AmericanVictory (Should we be more like them, or they like us?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: expatpat

I know when I'm reading drivel. If I post their drivel, it's so that it gets mocked.


34 posted on 11/09/2004 9:22:38 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 31 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

At least as interesting as the information about a possible cure is the connection between splenectomy and diabetes. I have a brother who developed insulin-dependent diabetes at 43 years old - 9 years after having his spleen removed.


35 posted on 11/09/2004 9:30:17 PM PST by hocndoc (Choice is the # 1 killer in the US)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Yaelle
Also shows that even the spleen is important.

If you have an infection Streptococcus pneumoniae without a spleen, you're in a world of hurt.

36 posted on 11/09/2004 9:35:18 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: neverdem
Thank you very much for this article. As someone who pricks her fingers daily I am very interested.
37 posted on 11/09/2004 9:45:01 PM PST by Talking_Mouse (Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just... Thomas Jefferson)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

If you have an infection Streptococcus pneumoniae without a spleen

Should have been

If you have an infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae without a spleen

or

If you have an Streptococcus pneumoniae infection without a spleen

duh


38 posted on 11/09/2004 9:47:35 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: neverdem; B4Ranch


Like the 100 mpg carburetor , a cure for cancer and diabetes will be bought and locked away before it's allowed to kill any multi billion dollar industry be it oil or snake oil.....

< / tinfoil >


39 posted on 11/09/2004 9:59:10 PM PST by Squantos (Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet. )
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

Very interesting article. . .


40 posted on 11/09/2004 10:29:29 PM PST by cricket (Don't lose your head. . vote Republican. . .)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Squantos
We can beat the AMA if we fight together! A few rich corporations cannot win a war against a large group of determined individuals. President Bush showed that to the Kerry's and their billions.

I strongly encourage everyone interested in winning the fight to cure type 1 diabetes to send $1, $2, $3, $4, $5 or $10 a month to


The Iacocca Foundation II
“Join Lee Now”
17 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116
Donations on line

Battles are not won by a single soldier on the front lines, he has 50 other soldiers behind him in all different support areas. That's why the $1, $2, $3, $4, $5 or $10 donations are so important. Yes, the nurse needs the cup of coffee your one dollar buys him or her. The $100 tool is just as important as the $5 lunch is.

If fifty thousand supporters will send $1.00 a month, this will give the The Iacocca Foundation II SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars a year to fight this child killer.

By the way, this is something close to Lee's heart, his wife died from this disease.

Please, everyone break out a check for $12 and save yourself $4.07 in the annual mailing costs. Or just click this Donations on line

Lee started The Iacocca Foundation II with his own check of $1 million. We can't match it individually, but together we sure can!

Thank you All!

41 posted on 11/10/2004 4:14:00 AM PST by B4Ranch (A lack of alcohol in my coffee is forcing me to see reality!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: neverdem; afraidfortherepublic; Alamo-Girl; AlbionGirl; anniegetyourgun; Aquinasfan; Archangelsk; ..
Pro-life/pro-baby ping (she is facing an uphill battle because she ISN"T using embryonic stem cells, but has CURED diabetic mice)


42 posted on 11/24/2004 11:03:53 AM PST by cgk (The Left was beaten by Pres Bush twice & will never have another shot at him... who's dumb?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: cgk

Thanks for the ping. A most interesting article. It's too bad the real scientists aren't in charge of the scientific community.


43 posted on 11/26/2004 8:08:12 PM PST by skr (A Blessed Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: neverdem

In this mice, is this a "cure" or a "treatment"? I.e. is it a one shot deal, or does the drug have to be continued indefinitely to prevent a relapse?


44 posted on 11/27/2004 12:23:04 AM PST by HiTech RedNeck
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: neverdem
His foundation's scientific advisers strongly endorsed it, and Mr. Iacocca, whose wife, Mary, died of diabetes complications, has a personal interest.

Keep in mind that the complications that adult type 1 diabetics are running into are often caused because the way diabetes was treated when they were young is vastly different than it's treated in the young today. From what I understand the injections used to be based on a sliding scale of your age and weight, NOT based on exactly what you're eating as it is today. As a result the injections were not accurate and there were no doubt a zillion high glucose readings day after day......and it's all those spikes that add up to the complications that hit you later on.

My daughter's endocrinologist says that even in the last 5-10 years the way diabetes can be managed has changed dramatically.......and he also says he no longer tells his patients that they have it for life.

45 posted on 03/13/2005 12:37:25 PM PST by Lizavetta
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

More about BCG which is used against TB, mostly in other countries.
46 posted on 03/01/2008 12:20:00 AM PST by syriacus (Democrats who prefer to fight wars from a position of weakness can't be trusted with our military.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson