When will there be a cure for diabetes?

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Brian Roe

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When will there be a cure for diabetes?
« on: 26/07/2008 15:25:04 »
Brian Roe asked the Naked Scientists:

I have been diabetic since I was eight.  I am now thirty-five.  I have heard that researchers are "so close" to finding a cure.  

From a scientific standpoint, about how long is that?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 04/10/2008 15:53:02 by chris »


Offline chris

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When will there be a cure for diabetes?
« Reply #1 on: 04/10/2008 16:01:39 »
Hi Brian

this is tricky; given the young age at which you developed diabetes I suspect that you have got type I DM; in other words you inject insulin because your pancreas cannot make its own.

The usual cause of type I DM is that the immune system inappropriately mounts an attack against the insulin-secreting beta cells in the islets of langerhans. Scientists don't know for sure but suspect that a prior viral infection can fool the immune system into mistaking pancreatic beta cells for foreign tissue and so they are relentlessly attacked, destroying the body's capacity to make insulin.

This means that to overcome the diabetic state the missing cells would need to be replaced, but this creates another problem, which is how to prevent the immune system from attacking the new tissue in the same way.

Consequently one approach that scientists are trying is to add insulin-secreting abilities to non-pancreatic cell types, the idea being that the immune system would ignore these cells, yet the body would still have a supply of insulin. They have also been experimenting with turning other types of pancreatic cells back into insulin-producing cells. This has proved quite successful.

Therefore I think the true solution lies in our learning how to modify the immune response. If the inappropriate immune response that has led to the diabetes in the first place can be curtailed, then putting in replacement cells should cure the condition.

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx