Skip to comments.Diabetes Breakthrough(scientists cure disease in mice)
Posted on 12/15/2006 8:44:37 AM PST by kellynla
In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.
Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.
"I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more."
The researchers caution they have yet to confirm their findings in people, but say they expect results from human studies within a year or so. Any treatment that may emerge to help at least some patients would likely be years away from hitting the market.
But the excitement of the team from Sick Kids, whose work is being published today in the journal Cell, is almost palpable.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Dr. Hans Michael Dosch, an immunologist at the hospital and a leader of the studies. "In my career, this is unique."
Their conclusions upset conventional wisdom that Type 1 diabetes, the most serious form of the illness that typically first appears in childhood, was solely caused by auto-immune responses -- the body's immune system turning on itself.
They also conclude that there are far more similarities than previously thought between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and that nerves likely play a role in other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as asthma and Crohn's disease.
The "paradigm-changing" study opens "a novel, exciting door to address one of the diseases with large societal impact," said Dr. Christian Stohler, a leading U.S. pain specialist and dean of dentistry at the University of Maryland, who has reviewed the work.
"The treatment and diagnosis of neuropathic diseases is poised to take a dramatic leap forward because of the impressive research."
About two million Canadians suffer from diabetes, 10% of them with Type 1, contributing to 41,000 deaths a year.
Insulin replacement therapy is the only treatment of Type 1, and cannot prevent many of the side effects, from heart attacks to kidney failure.
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to shift glucose into the cells that need it. In Type 2 diabetes, the insulin that is produced is not used effectively -- something called insulin resistance -- also resulting in poor absorption of glucose.
The problems stem partly from inflammation -- and eventual death -- of insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas.
Dr. Dosch had concluded in a 1999 paper that there were surprising similarities between diabetes and multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease. His interest was also piqued by the presence around the insulin-producing islets of an "enormous" number of nerves, pain neurons primarily used to signal the brain that tissue has been damaged.
Suspecting a link between the nerves and diabetes, he and Dr. Salter used an old experimental trick -- injecting capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot chili peppers, to kill the pancreatic sensory nerves in mice that had an equivalent of Type 1 diabetes.
"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.
So next they injected the neuropeptide "substance P" in the pancreases of diabetic mice, a demanding task given the tiny size of the rodent organs. The results were dramatic.
The islet inflammation cleared up and the diabetes was gone. Some have remained in that state for as long as four months, with just one injection.
They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar.
While pain scientists have been receptive to the research, immunologists have voiced skepticism at the idea of the nervous system playing such a major role in the disease. Editors of Cell put the Toronto researchers through vigorous review to prove the validity of their conclusions, though an editorial in the publication gives a positive review of the work.
"It will no doubt cause a great deal of consternation," said Dr. Salter about his paper.
The researchers are now setting out to confirm that the connection between sensory nerves and diabetes holds true in humans. If it does, they will see if their treatments have the same effects on people as they did on mice.
Nothing is for sure, but "there is a great deal of promise," Dr. Salter said.
Ice cream and hot fudge for everyone!!
Will the wonders of embryonic stem cells never cease? Oh ... wait ....
Pass the sugar!
I bet it will. There was no mention of "stem cells" in this report. If they don't need stem cells for this, how will they get the government funding earmarked for the hot new thing?
I hope this is true!!
Big time ping.
See? See? I've been telling y'all that spicy food was good for you!
That last sentence is just plain unsat.
Extremely cool. Extremely wonderful, if it can be fashioned into a cure or near-cure for humans.
Wonderful news, if true.
Assume they're talking about Type 2...
My jaw dropped as I read this article. Needs IMMEDIATE replication research. Absolutely astonishing.
Classic! I would love to hear Michael J. Fox explain how something like this could (possibly) be discovered without having to kill any babies!
I'm praying that this is true!
Actually types 1 and 2. Originally found working on mice with type 1.
Anybody have an opinion on the truth of this? When our daughter was diagnosed, we were told proper blood suger management would prevent almost all of the nasty effects. Many of the problems like blindness, bad limbs and heart problems were mostly associated with type 2 patients that went around with 500 blood sugar for 10 years.
Me too, I was diagnosed with Type 2 about a year and a half ago and thought the only promising thing out there was Byetta. This gives some hope. Although I'll be surprised if it hits any market within the next 20 years, there's just too much money to be made by big pharma by treating the symptoms, not curing the disease. You ever notice we don't cure diseases anymore, they just find ways to deal with the symptoms and sell you bottles of pills every month. Very lucrative.
Thanks for the post! I just informed a friend with Type2.
It would be nice if they would speed this up a bit, just can't wait around.
Get a grip! No one is saying they can't go get a black-market baby and have a good, old-fashioned, Carthaginian, Baal-worshipping human sacrifice.
*shrug* You can always volunteer to be a guinea pig...
How wonderful! My dear husband was diagnosed with this disease a year ago and it has been awful. He takes care to follow the diet because his grandmother lost both legs to it and he remembers that all too well. What hopeful news!
Hmmmmmm, I'm gonna have to have a long talk with my doctor. He's been telling me I have diabetes for years, yet I now find out it only afflicts Canooks!
This would be a wonderful christmas present to many, prayers that this is cured.
"injecting capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot chili peppers,"
I wonder what the band members thought of having all their capsaicin extracted.
Good treatment can minimize damage. Still, even under the best control you are not going to have normal sugar levels. There will be some complications, although hopefully not severe. I get checked out every year (blood tests, eye capillaries, check for nerve damage, etc.). So far, so good. But one day they will find something. That's just the way it is. I've had Type 1 for 13 years.
I'd like to believe this story is true. But I don't. probably just angling for a grant. We'll see.
That's how I felt when they told me I had sickle-cell anemia.
Eh, I'm just edgy to see results. Not diabetic but I think a cure would be amazing.
My mother was diagnosed at age 18 with Type 1 diabetes, and died a few years ago at age 59 from the effects of the disease. By the end, her entire metabolism was way out of whack, her sugar nearly uncontrollable, her digestion dysfunctional, and she was suffering from hypertension.
The good news for you is 1) Mom still had her feet and toes, 2) Mom could still see as well as ever (she was awfully nearsighted from youth), and 3) Mom was a drinker and smoker who didn't eat right, didn't control her weight, and didn't exercise.
Your daughter ought to be able to do far better than my mother did, if she even gives it half an attempt.
Wow, hope it is true. My sister had to have the lower part of her leg amputated last year due to diabetes. I wonder if consuming foods high in capsacin could have similar effect?
If you could actually cure diabetes you would slice a BIG chunk out of the nation's health care cost.
BFLR = Bump for later reading
if I had diabetis I'd be getting a bottle of this TODAY, and hope that dosing myself with it would allow some of it to work its way thru circulation into the pancreas.....I believe that at least SOME would get there, and that it is otherwise harmless:
This is potentially a very big deal for almost everyone who draws breath. But if I had a dollar for every "it works on mice but won't be tried on humans for at least 2 years" medical breakthrough story that was never heard from again, I'd be rich. I would love to think this one will pan out, but we certainly do seem to have a lot of researchers getting grants off results that hit the news with a splash and, for whatever reason, never deliver. As always, time will tell.
Me too! Only, I am a diabetic!
As a parent of TWO type 1's, I hope this turns into something.
Have a Coke (tm) and a Smile!
I don't know, but a preventive dose couldn't do any harm. I'd best go find some right away! =]
Ho. Lee. Crap. I hope and pray that this works for my kid.
But this will only help Canadians...apparently.
Never underestimate the power of negative thinking.
"Will the wonders of embryonic stem cells never cease? Oh ... wait ...."
No, it isn't stem cell research, but it is biology -- the same biology that, applied as natural selection, mustn't be taught lest it contradict beliefs of ancient desert tribes.
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