The daily life of a diabetic is full of tedious and undoubtedly unpleasant chores. Regular blood sugar tests and insulin shots lead the general population to fear the diagnosis, especially at younger ages. More than that, this routine is also the reason why some of those who do suffer from the condition end up forsaking or not getting the treatment needed to manage their illness.
Hopefully, this may become a distant memory in the relatively near future, as researchers from UT Health San Antonio have recently revealed that they have invented a cure for diabetes that has shown great results in trials on mice. Moreover, they are confident it may also be as effective in humans, once thoroughly researched and perfected.
The principle behind this new cure is fairly simple. Seeing as diabetes is an autoimmune disease caused by an anomaly in the immune system, which starts attacking and destroying the cells of the pancreas responsible for the production of insulin, the researchers have found a way to make sure other unaffected pancreas cells take on the task.
Through the gene transfer technique, they essentially turn other cells into beta cells, at least in function, so that they take over the production of insulin but aren’t attacked by the immune system.
To make this possible, the genes are collected from external beta cells and then carried into the diabetic pancreas through a virus, which allows the new genes to infiltrate healthy cells and “trick” them into producing insulin whenever sugar is present, just like regular, healthy beta cells.
This is a great breakthrough, seeing as it completely bypasses the autoimmune system and the damaged beta cells, reducing the risk of a diabetic relapse, as new beta cells are always likely to be affected by the disease.
The risk of hypoglycemia is also lowered, as these genetically modified cells work exactly like healthy beta cells, thus not synthesizing excess amounts of sugar.
No side effects have been observed and expected, especially when treating long-term type I diabetics. The cure might also be viable for those suffering from the moderate type 2 kind, though.
Researchers are hopeful but also very cautious. They emphasize the differences between curing diabetes in mice and humans, which may take years to overcome. The team plans on starting human trials in three years, but a lot of work will need to be done with animals in order for that to come to pass. Be that as it may, this is still very encouraging news for the estimated 1.25 million people living with diabetes in the US alone, according to the CDC.