Friday, December 15, 2006

An Amazing Break Through

Canadian scientists have seemingly cured Type I diabetes in lab mice.
In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease...
This is really exciting. My father-in-law is one of the over 20 million Americans who suffer from this disease. How did they do it?

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

"I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more."

The substance is capsaicin, the stuff that makes peppers red hot and causes your eyes to slam shut if a cop uses pepper spray on you. It appears that capsaicin causes the pancreatic sensory nerves to shut down, then the pancreas starts to produce normal doses of insulin almost immediately.

Diabetes is known as an autoimmune disease and this research is making a lot of waves.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Dr. Hans Michael Dosch, an immunologist at the hospital and a leader of the studies. "In my career, this is unique." [...] Dr. Dosch had concluded in a 1999 paper that there were surprising similarities between diabetes and multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease. His interest was also piqued by the presence around the insulin-producing islets of an "enormous" number of nerves, pain neurons primarily used to signal the brain that tissue has been damaged.
The body works in amazing ways and this research only reinforces that notion.
It turns out the nerves secrete neuropeptides that are instrumental in the proper functioning of the islets. Further study by the team, which also involved the University of Calgary and the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, found that the nerves in diabetic mice were releasing too little of the neuropeptides, resulting in a "vicious cycle" of stress on the islets.
And this treatment has long range implications. Just one injection into the lab mice lasted for four months! I imagine the pharmaceutical will be raising a stink over this.

I take my father-in-law to Rochester on a routine basis where until six months ago he participated in an experimental program to test a new method for treating congestive heart failure. Some doctors believe that the body's immune system is responsible for attacking the heart muscles!

I have not heard the results of the study yet and it was a double blind experiemnt (not even the doctors administering it have any idea whether it was the placebo or medicine that was used for any particular patient). But from what the cardiologist shared with me, this sounds a lot like what the doctors in Toronto are doing.

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