From New York, USA:
I recently read about a new gene discovery which regenerates islet cells. Eli Lilly announced it on April 10, 1997. A snippet of their press release says:
Diabetes Institutes researchers isolate gene, protein involved in pancreatic islet regeneration.
Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY), Eastern Virginia Medical School and McGill University announced today a licensing agreement regarding the discovery of a gene and its related products that could potentially play a key role in treating diabetes more effectively.
Why hasn't this gotten more publicity? Do you think it is a cure?
I am sorry not to be able to answer your question precisely because I did not hear or read the announcement (and neither did any of my colleagues who work mostly in the laboratory). What I did learn is that a number of centers have been interested in a protein that has the capacity to induce islet cell formation from pancreatic duct tissue in animals. The protein has been sequenced and the DNA cloned so that the potential for gene therapy is there. At the same time it is probable that any cell which can be induced to make insulin will be a target of the immune system disorder in Type 1 Diabetes. This approach then is likely to be limited to insulin dependant Type 2 Diabetics and a few rare forms of diabetes in which there is also insulin resistance.
It would be a mistake to think that this idea can move quickly to a stage of therapeutic benefit in man; for one thing gene therapy has so far been disappointing (e.g., in cystic fibrosis). Nonetheless the theme is of considerable interest and I am sure it will take its place alongside advances in islet transplantation and new drugs in the future management of diabetes.
[Editor's note: See Experimental gene therapy offers hope to diabetics for the press release. JSH]
Original posting 3 May 97
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