April 18, 2006
Researchers at the University of Virginia may have found a way to reverse Type 1 diabetes. For the two million people in the U.S. that suffer from this disease, that would mean no more insulin shots to stabilize blood sugar.
After two years of research, scientists at UVA say they may have discovered a cure for Type 1 diabetes. So far they have only tested it in diabetic mice, but they believe it will work in people as well.
Dr. Jerry Nadler, along with other researchers, discovered a way to mix medications that would reverse Type 1 diabetes in mice, for good.
They combined one medication that would stop the immune system from destroying the good cells, with another medication to help the cells regrow. Within the first week researchers were able to lower blood sugar levels to near normal.
"We stopped the treatment and we actually expected the diabetes to start coming back again but it didn't. In many of the mice, the diabetes stayed away, and in one mouse, the diabetes stayed away for 145 days," said Dr. Nadler.
In fact, in one mouse the diabetes stayed away for almost 5 months. These very promising results will help researchers move to the next phase, a clinical trial with people.
"The discoveries that we make here are very exciting and very interesting and very encouraging to me personally," said Jim Garmey.
Garmey is a researcher but he also has been living with Type 1 diabetes himself for 40 years. He said he never thought researchers would be this close to finding a cure in his lifetime.
"Being part of the process and being involved in the research itself has helped me to get a greater appreciation for how close we really are," said Garmey.
For diabetes patients like Garmey, this new discovery could mean saying goodbye to daily insulin shots and pumps forever. That could change people's lives.
"It could be very helpful to them, yes," said Dr. Nadler.
It normally takes new research about five to ten years to move from animal tests to human clinical trials, but Dr. Nadler said this discovery should go to trial in as little as a year or two.
Researchers say this is the first time scientists found a way to reverse diabetes and also help maintain normal levels of bloodsugar.