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Type 1 Diabetes Research Yields Breakthrough

Type 1 diabetes research at one hospital has resulted in a breakthrough that was reported last week. The new information, assuming it stands up to peer review and further development, is sure to have the pharmaceutical industry from the smallest biotech firm to the largest companies, fighting to be the first to market new treatments.

Type 1 diabetes requires the use of insulin injections to regulate the body’s blood sugar. An estimated 26 million people have type 1 or type 2 diabetes with only five percent of patients having type 1. 215,000 suffer from type 1 diabetes.

The effects of the disease can lead to heart and kidney problems as well as other medical conditions. In the 1970s, treatment options began to emerge that allowed for cell transplant that replaced insulin-producing cells that were attacked and killed by the body’s immune system into the liver.

This proved to work but the side effects from the drugs used to keep the body from attacking the new cells produce side effects that trade one medical condition for another.

In a recent blog post from the Boston Children’s Hospital, Paolo Fiorina, MD, PhD, reported that he and a team of researchers isolated the ATP/P2X7R pathway, which triggers the T-cell attacks on the pancreas, rendering it unable to produce insulin.

A little too complicated? Florina figured out where to aim the gun in the attack against the disease. He found the origin of the attack.

If the research pans out the way scientists believe, therapies will transform from treating the symptoms to treating the source. Companies like Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) who are heavily into diabetes research will refocus their efforts on this identified pathway.

According to Florina,

“I believe it won’t be long before we can cure diabetes with a number of different therapies depending on the needs of the patient,” he says. “Then, if the right screening techniques for diabetes could be developed, it would be entirely possible in many cases that we could prevent the disease from ever developing in children. The future of diabetes treatment is very exciting.”

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, the author had no position in any of the equities mentioned.


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