Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri have come across a chance discovery which has enabled them to cure type 1 diabetes within mice.
The discovery followed 12 years of type 1 diabetes research by Professor Habib Zaghouani. Previous research had involved studying the effects of a type of antibody (immunoglobin) known as Ig-GAD2.
Prof Zaghouani’s research showed that the antibody was able to prevent the immune system from attacking the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. However, the research faced a difficulty in that the speed at which type 1 diabetes develops meant that the disease had destroyed too many beta cells to allow the body to recover adequate insulin producing ability.
To help the body produce more insulin, the research team opted to use adult stem cells from bone marrow, with the intention of having these stem cells grow into beta cells. However, rather than growing into beta cells, the stem cells grew into brand new blood vessels which, to the delight of researchers, facilitated new beta cells to then be produced.
The researchers then put these methods to the test together and monitored the results. Ig-GAD2 antibodies were given to the mice for 10 weeks and bone marrow transplants were given in consecutive weeks between weeks 2 and 4. The result was impressive and enabled the mice to be free of type 1 diabetes for 120 days which amounts to the typical lifespan of a mouse.
Prof Zaghouani’s team have responded to the study’s findings by applying successfully for 3 separate patents. The patents could provide both positive as well as negative news for people with type 1 diabetes. On the one hand, the patents provide financial incentive for the researchers to continue to develop their research but on the other hand, it takes away incentives for other research teams to also investigate this promising new avenue.
The news is without doubt promising but people living with type 1 diabetes should be aware that this is one of a number of cures that have been found for mice with type 1 diabetes over the past decade but as yet a successful cure in humans is yet to have been demonstrated.

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