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NOTE: for follow-up articles please see the Related Articles at the bottom of this article
In the search for a diabetes cure, a 2006 study stunned even the experts involved. Scientists at a Toronto medical center published findings that diabetes may be triggered by nerves, suggesting that diabetes is triggered by neuropathic problems rather than by autoimmune disorders.
In the study, mice that had been given diabetes became healthy within 24 hours after medical experts introduced a compound to circumvent the effect of reduced neurons in the pancreas.
"I couldn't believe it," reported Dr. Michael Salter, an expert in pain at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the researchers involved in the discovery. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more." In essence, it appeared that this was a diabetes cure.
The specialists urge caution, warning that they still have to prove their study. Any possible diabetes cure that may develop is most likely to be years away.
The team from Sick Children, who published their research in Cell, are still immensely excited, and hope that this is a major step towards the diabetes cure that the medical world has been seeking.
"I've never seen anything like it," stated Dr. Hans Michael Dosch, an expert in immunology the hospital and a leader of the studies.
Their research may overthrow the current view that Type 1 diabetes, the most serious form of the disorder that often presents in childhood, was the result of auto-immune reactions.
Their study also suggests that Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have more in common than currently believed and that our nerves likely play a role in other irreversible inflammatory sicknesses, such as asthma and Crohn's disease.
This impressive study opens, "a novel, exciting door to address one of the diseases with large societal impact," said Doctor Christian Stohler, chair of the University of Maryland Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, who has reviewed the 'cure for diabetes' claims.
The research team injected capsaicin, (the active compound in chili peppers), into the pancreas in order to kill the pancreatic sensory neurons in lab mice that had Type one diabetes mellitus. The astonishing outcome was that the islets immediately began producing insulin at normal levels. In other words, it appeared that the subject mice had been cured of diabetes.
The study reports that pancreatic sensory neurons control islet inflammation and insulin resistance; by eliminating them, they prevented diabetes in the mice.
Follow-up research determined that the nerves in the diabetic mice were not secreting enought neuropeptides to allow for proper functioning islets. Injected of a neuropeptide referred to as "substance P" into the pancreas of diabetic rodents resulted in normal production of insulin. Some mice remained in that state for 4 months after only one dose.
The experts also found that this procedure reduced the insulin resistance that is the main distinguishing feature of Type-2 diabetes which also implies that insulin resistance is a component of Type-1 diabetes.
The medical researchers are now trying to confirm that the connection between our nerves and diabetes holds true for people. If it does, they will see if their procedure has identically the same effect on humans as it did on laboratory mice.
Millions have diabetes mellitus, with 10% having Type-one and 90% Type-two. The condition is the 6th most significant cause of death reported on U.S. death certificates, and many experts believe that it is even higher due to under reporting.
Currently there is no diabetes treatment other than insulin injections, and this diabetes treatment does not prevent many of diabetes' negative consequences such as heart attacks and kidney failure. Insulin is not a diabetes cure; it is merely a way of reducing some of the consequences and aiding longevity of the patient.
Again, caution is urged - it is very early days and even if the research holds true any diabetes cure will be years away. The best advice for all diabetics is to carry on with you diabetic care regimes exactly as normal.
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