News Tidbits: Artificial Pancreases, Nanovaccines, and Regenerated Beta Cells

Artificial Pancreas Maintains Normal BGs

According to this Reuters story, an “artificial pancreas” maintained normal blood sugar levels in 11 patients for 24 hours. This stat is pretty impressive given that, even with my crazy attention to my readings lately, I can only manage to be in range  about 55% of the time.

The artificial pancreas was actually more of a collection of diabetes management gadgets, comprised of “a glucose monitor, two pumps and a laptop.” The story is vague. It does not specify who sponsored the study and which pumps and glucose monitor were used, but I’m guessing that the study was part of the recent partnership between the JDRF, Animas, and Dexcom, and that the “glucose monitor” is not a simple BG tester, but instead a Continuous Glucose Monitor, or CGM.

The JDRF’s first generation artificial pancreas is not expected to include the glucagon pump, but they say that they hope to incorporate it in a later generation.

Scientists Cure Diabetes in Mice … Again

Scientists in Calgary, Alberta Canada, recently treated mice with a “nanovaccine” which helps a certain type of immune cell police the rogue T cells that are killing off our beta cells. The results are promising, but not overwhelming. The report states that over 75% of the mice had their diabetes reversed and that the vaccine also prevented the development of diabetes if they injected it into the mice before onset of the disease. In other good news, the scientists used mice whose disease closely mirrors the disease in people. The vaccine is still several  years from human trials, though, and I wonder how a 75% cure rate in mice translates into people.

Seeing as Dr. Faustman’s trial is already into the human testing stage, and her vaccine is a well-known, inexpensive, and safe drug, I’m thinking that her solution is more promising. Still, it’s nice to know that there is another possibility on the horizon.

Alpha Cells in the Pancreas Can Transform into Beta Cells

Researchers at the University of Geneva Medical School recently discovered that if they kill off all of the beta cells in mice, some of the alpha cells in the pancreas actually change into active beta cells. Beta cells are the ones that produce insulin and the ones that are killed of by the immune system in type 1 diabetics. The hypothesis is that as soon as our bodies convert the alpha cells into beta cells, our immune system attacks and kills them. If we could prevent the autoimmune attack, the newly created beta cells might actually thrive and produce insulin.

What is most interesting to me is that this research actually supports Dr. Faustman’s theory that if we can stop the immune system from attacking, the body will regenerate the beta cells. And it looks like we could regenerate them from a number of sources, including the splenic cells that Dr. Faustman tested, and the alpha cells that this team tested. Again, this research was done in mice, so our enthusiasm should be curbed until further testing can be completed. Still, maybe it’s another bright light on the horizon.

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