Researchers at MIT believe that they’ve made a major breakthrough in responding to the diabetes epidemic.
Building on work that has been carried out previously at Harvard University, scientists believe that they may have found a cure for Type 1 diabetes, or at least a potentially fertile avenue of investigation.
A team working at the institution associated with technology demonstrated that they can switch off the diabetes disease for six months in animals; a period that would equate to several years in humans.
Back in 2014, researchers at Harvard University discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as similarly significant as the discovery of antibiotics.
Now the MIT scientists have proven that implanting cells into mice has the potential to completely restore insulin functions.
Julia Greenstein of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or JDRF, the type 1 diabetes research charity, stated that “these treatments aim to effectively establish long-term insulin independence and eliminate the daily burden of managing the disease for months, possibly years, at a time.”
Although it is very early days in the research of this new technique, ultimately the development of it could result in the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain who have to cope with Type 1 diabetes.
It is believed that human trials maybe just a few years away.
Dr Daniel Anderson, professor of applied biology at MIT, was effusive about the discovery.
“We are excited by these results, and are working hard to advance this technology to the clinic. These results lay the groundwork for future human studies using these formulations with the goal of achieving long-term replacement therapy for Type 1 diabetes. We believe (the cells) have the potential to provide insulin independence for patients suffering from this disease.”
Anderson also outlined the full potential of this technique, particularly providing details on one especially exciting aspect of the research.
“It has the potential to provide diabetics with a new pancreas that is protected from the immune system, which would allow them to control their blood sugar without taking drugs. That’s the dream.”
Although only 10% of diabetes is Type 1, it is particularly common among children, and is the most debilitating form of the condition.
While effective treatment of diabetes can ensure a long life and a relatively unencumbered standard of living for sufferers, it had previously been impossible to reverse the condition.
If it were possible to provide sufferers in the UK with the ability to be insulin independent, this would be a massive step forward for treatment of diabetes.
There are about 35,000 children and young people with diabetes, under the age of 19, in the UK, and about 96% of these have Type 1.