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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Diabetes Channel
Reported March 24, 2006

New Cure for Diabetes

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- An experimental cure is one step closer to being a reality for patients with type 1 diabetes. Researchers successfully replicated experiments resulting in a cure for mice with type 1 diabetes.

In type 1 diabetes, the body's immune cells mistakenly attack the insulin-producing beta cells found in the pancreatic islets. As the islets die, insulin production ceases and blood sugar levels rise, damaging organs throughout the body.

One current treatment for type 1 diabetes is islet cell transplantation. Islets from a donor pancreas are transplanted into another person where they then begin to make insulin. Rejection is a major drawback to this treatment and patients need to take immunosuppressive drugs to keep their bodies from killing off the cells.

An experimental alternative approach to treating type 1 diabetes in mice is showing some promise. Researchers at the University of Chicago say the treatment is a combination of a substance that causes an extreme immune reaction, called Freund's complete adjuvant, and donated spleen cells. Previous studies show the treatment can be a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Researchers say the purpose of the experiment is to independently replicate a study that shows the treatment turns off the autoimmune response in diabetic mice and leads to regeneration of beta cells. The original study was published in 2003 by Harvard researcher Denise Faustman. She theorized the treatment not only stopped the autoimmune response that destroyed beta cells, but the transplanted spleen cells were able to turn into beta cells, reversing type 1 diabetes.

University of Chicago researchers repeated the study with some success. They say the treatment cured 32 percent of the mice in their study. By using donor spleen cells from a transgenic mouse strain, however, they were able to show spleen cells probably did not turn into beta cells. Rather, in the absence of an autoimmune response, the researchers theorize the diabetic mice may have been able to regenerate their own beta cells.

Research teams from Harvard University in Boston and from Washington University in St. Louis found similar results. All three papers are published in the March 24, 2006, issue of Science.

Researchers theorize that the massive immune response triggered by Freund's complete adjuvant, or FCA, may be what turns off the autoimmune response. FCA, however, cannot be used in humans. The immune response causes inflammation and pain that does not go away.

Researchers say finding a way to make these new findings work in humans is a challenge.

This article was reported by, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

SOURCE: Science, March 2006

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