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04 July 2017

scientists cure diabetes in mice

A promising new technique developed in the US has cured diabetes in mice. Picture: iStock

ENDING Australia’s diabetes epidemic could be one step closer, with a promising new technique curing the condition in mice.

Scientists in the United States announced the breakthrough, which uses a novel approach that may eliminate Type 1 diabetes and see painful insulin injections become a thing of the past for those with Type 2.

University of Texas Health Science Centre doctors used a virus as a carrier to introduce insulin-producing genes into the pancreas of rodent subjects.

Professor Ralph DeFronzo said researchers altered cells so they secreted insulin, but only in response to glucose — mimicking the behaviour of the body’s “beta cells”.

Dr Bruno Doiron and Dr Ralph DeFronzo of UT Health San Antonio co-invented a patented technique that cured diabetes in mice for one year without side effects. Picture: UT Health San Antonio

Dr Bruno Doiron and Dr Ralph DeFronzo of UT Health San Antonio co-invented a patented technique that cured diabetes in mice for one year without side effects. Picture: UT Health San AntonioSource:Supplied

This study bypasses the autoimmune system by altering other pancreatic cells so they can coexist with immune defences — unlike beta cells, which are rejected in Type 1 patients.

At the moment, diabetes is treated by monitoring glucose levels and injecting artificial insulin up to four times a day. While technology has made management of the condition easier, a cure has been elusive — until now.

The patent’s co-inventor Professor Bruno Doiron said the results had never been seen before.

“It worked perfectly,” Dr Doiron said. “We cured mice for one year without any side effects.”

Diabetes is treated by monitoring glucose levels and injecting artificial insulin up to four times a day. Picture: iStock

Diabetes is treated by monitoring glucose levels and injecting artificial insulin up to four times a day. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

Dr Doiron predicted the same low-risk response in humans.

“If a Type 1 diabetic has been living with these cells for 30, 40 or 50 years, and all we’re getting them to do is secrete insulin, we expect there to be no adverse immune response.”

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Dr DeFronzo said the same method of treatment has been approved almost 50 times by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat various conditions, including rare childhood diseases.

While it’s early days, the potential applications are promising and the researchers will now conduct a study on larger animals before any move to human trials.

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Scientists cured mice of diabetes for one year without any side effects and are confident the result can be replicated in humans. Picture: File

Scientists cured mice of diabetes for one year without any side effects and are confident the result can be replicated in humans. Picture: FileSource:News Limited

Type 2 diabetes is the fastest-growing chronic condition in Australia, increasing at a faster rate than both heart disease and cancer.

In Australia, some 1.7 million people were recorded as having diabetes in 2015, according to Diabetes Australia, and 280 more people develop it each day.

The biggest side effect of diabetes is hypoglycaemia, when the level of glucose in the blood stream is at abnormally low levels.

It can have severe side effects including seizures, inability to eat or drink and unconsciousness.

The new therapy precisely regulated the blood sugar of the mice — a major development over traditional insulin therapy.

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