Scientists find way to reverse type 1 diabetes in mice

When a young person is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it can affect his or her entire family due to the common belief that type 1 diabetes is more difficult to manage than type 2 diabetes.

Some reasons why the former is considered more serious are that it is typically diagnosed in children who require constant help with diabetes management from their parents. Also, individuals who have type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin naturally in their bodies, which is a hormone needed to remove sugar molecules from the blood and transport them to areas of the body where they can be converted into energy. This means that type 1 diabetics may be more susceptible to instances of dangerously high or low blood sugar levels, compared to individuals with type 2 diabetes whose bodies make insulin but do not respond to it.

For these reasons, researchers are increasingly looking for new diabetes medications and treatments that may help reverse or reduce symptoms of the disease.

Recently, a study presented at the Endocrine Society's 93rd Annual Meeting showed that gene therapy was 78 percent effective in reversing type 1 diabetes in mice.

The scientists explained that in people with type 1 diabetes, T cells destroy insulin-producing beta cells. Therefore, they created a gene therapy that creates new beta cells and a second stage of treatment that blocks the mice's immune systems from killing the fresh cells.

The study's results showed that 78 percent of the mice remained diabetes-free in the long term, while the rest only experienced short-lived relief.

"T cells are the predominant part of islet destruction, but other pathways, including beta cells could also contribute, meaning we would need to target those pathways as well," said lead researcher Vijay Yechoor, MD.

He said that although the gene therapy was not 100 percent effective, it provides a foundation for future diabetes treatments.