18 December 2006

Diabetes Cured In Mice

New research has shown the diabetes has a much larger nervous system component than previously believed and even more amazingly, that addressing this component of the disease can cure mice that already have the disease.

[S]cientists 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 . . . .

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

Who knew that the pancreas even had pain neurons? I had always thought that one of the reasons that pancreatic and liver cancers were so deadly was that you don't have many nerve receptors in that part of your body.

This story has to top the list of out of the blue, totally unexpected good news all year. I follow this stuffy pretty closely and had never even known that there was a nervous system component to diabetes. Neither did anyone else until 1999.

UPDATE: Reading the source story of NewMexiKen's story is even more amazing.

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. . . .

[T]here 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. . . .

Dr. [Hans Michael] 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. [Michael] 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. . . .

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.

One shot, four months of cure, and the raw material is glorified hot chili juice. Human trials are only about a year away. Surgically, it may be easier to provide the treatment in humans than in mice, as the small size of mouse organs might it quite a tricky procedure. Major ailments like asthma and Crohn's disease might have cures around the corner as well.

And, this is on top of stunning news last week that ending hormone treatments for menopause reduced breast cancer incidence by 7% in a single year, far more than anyone would have dreamed of expecting.

The impact on health care budgets alone could be immense. Diabetes is one of the most expensive diseases to treat right now. Even a very expensive single shot, or infrequent injection procedure could save immense sums of money, and even more a couple decades later when the patents expire.

Confirmation and news of publication of the results in the scientific journal Cell can be found here and here. Abstract here.

1 comment:

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