Diabetes cure a long way away: researchers Periodic injections may reduce insulin dependency TORONTO (CP) – The search for a cure for diabetes got a $6-million boost Wednesday but researchers could offer little hope for an immediate breakthrough.
It’s been almost 80 years since Toronto’s Frederick Banting and Charles Best received the Nobel Prize for dis-covering insulin. Today, insulin, in pill or by injection, helps regulate blood sugar in many of the 2.5 million Canadians with diabetes.
But insulin only controls the disease.
The mission is to find a cure “ASAP,” said Dr. Terry Delovitch of the John P. Robarts Research Institute in London, Ont., but he gave a “realistic hope” of 20 years.
For parents like Cheryl Render, 20 years is too long. Her nine-year-old son Jared was diagnosed at age ree with a simple urine test. His symptoms were frequent uri-nation, weight loss while eating more than normaL mood-mess and irritability.
“He’s a nine-year-old kid who resents it” Render said, adding Jared still cheats by snacking on other kids’ foods, resulting in high blood sugar that makes him sweaty and jittery and could kill him.
In diabetes, the pancreas can’t metabolize sugar and starch properly, and blood and urine contain too much sugar, which can result in convulsions or a coma. But Render became a volunteer with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation because she has hope. Her son plays hockey and lives normally thanks to the insulin injections he gives himself three times a day The $6 million is from the foundation and the Medical Research Council of Canada.
It will go toward three years of clinical testing to find new therapies for Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes. It usually hits children and young adults whose pancreas produce little or no insulin.
Type 2 diabetes strikes far more Canadians, many of whom don’t know they have it. The pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is not able to use it efficiently.
Based on preliminary research, a cure may be a peri-odic injection of medication. It might get patients off insulin or reduce the frequency of its use, said Delovitch.
Dr. Jayne Danska, a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, is trying to unrav-el the genetics of diabetes, which could result in a blood test to indicate who is most likely to get the dis-ease.
She said it would be “irresponsible to promise a spe-cific outcome in a specific time,” especially when talk-ing about a cure.
Danska said it was only in the last few years that Type 1 diabetes was found to be an autoimmune dis-ease – the immune system kills islets in the pancreas- rather than a defect in the islets themselves. In contrast to diseases such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, caused by abnormalities in a sin-gle gene, Type 1 diabetes involves multiple genes which affect a variety of cells.
Danska added Canadian researchers are connected to scientists around the world who may make a dis-covery that would speed up scientific work here.
Delovitch, who studies immune-specific therapies, said antibody injections in mice have freed them of the disease for about a year.
Genetics and the immune system play a major role in why Type 1 diabetes strikes some people and not others, so finding the mechanism or mechanisms that lead to the disease is complicated, the researchers said.
This is why humans have not been tested with anti-bodies, although such testing could be on the horizon.