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Australian Docs Discover a Type 1 Diabetes Breakthrough

Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Australian doctors believe they have found the key to eradicating Type 1 diabetes, the kind that obliges sufferers to regulate their blood glucose levels every day of their lives.

Garvan Institute researcher Shane Grey in Sidney stated that,  "The only therapy we have is daily insulin injections, and they don't regulate glucose levels anywhere near as effectively as the body does itself….  Most people with Type 1 diabetes have blood sugar levels which are usually too high or too low, and over a period of time, this damages vital organs."

Type 1 diabetes can bring on heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and peripheral vascular disease. The genetic fault is present from birth but might not develop until adulthood. Without daily insulin injections, diabetics can lapse into a potentially fatal coma.

Grey and other researchers at the Sydney institute found a compound that had already been tested in humans with other auto-immune diseases that could block the cells that trigger Type 1 diabetes.

"All immune cells talk to each other with various hormones ... and we have found this drug is an inhibitor of one of those hormones," Grey said. "We have hit the nerve centre of the emerging clinical disease."

The therapy had a 100 percent success rate in the mice used in laboratory trials. "It does sound too good to be true," Grey said. "They all received 100 percent lifelong protection."

In their research, the scientists injected the compound over six weeks into mice that had a 70- to 90-per-cent susceptibility of getting the disease.  Grey foreshadowed those predisposed to Type 1 diabetes - people with an affected parent or sibling - receiving vaccinations over about four weeks that should offer immunity. "Even if it delays the onset of the disease by 10 years, it's still an amazing achievement," he said.

The potential breakthrough - clinical trials won't begin for about two years - may well lead to the prevention of Type 1 diabetes."

Source: Diabetes In Control: journal Diabetes, May 2009

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