For years, researchers have been working on ways to better manage diabetes and possibly even cure it. The idea of curing this difficult disease, however, has always felt pretty far off…until now.
Researchers at the Rangos Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital have been working with a virus that they believe can effectively cure diabetes. Their findings have been better than expected, and they’ve already seen positive results in animal testing. If those results translate into positive results in human trials, the world may be about to get the diabetes cure they’ve been waiting for.
“Normally, the pancreas makes insulin, and unfortunately, with diabetes, there’s a problem with that,” said Dr. George Gittes, surgeon and director of research at the center. “So the idea would be, rather than giving someone cells that make insulin, which might be rejected as a foreign thing, we induce or tweak the existing cells in a diabetic patient in the pancreas, tweak them into turning into insulin cell.”
The virus is lab-engineered for safety and works as a sort of gene therapy. The specially designed virus is delivered directly to the pancreas via an endoscope, where it is able to seek out a specific type of cell and convert it into an insulin cell. One injection could potentially cure the disease permanently.
“We infuse the viruses into the pancreatic tissue,” said Dr. Gittes. “It permeates through the pancreas, but it finds the cells that are the ones that have the capability to turn into insulin cells and it makes that happen.”
The team has already tested their virus in mice and in monkeys and found positive results. The mouse studies have been fairly predictable, but there are still some inconsistencies in the monkey participants. That leaves researchers with a few kinks to work out of the system before they can move on to human test subjects.
“Once we get a consistent result with the monkeys, we will then go to the FDA and present them with the trial we want to do in diabetic patients,” said Dr. Gittes.
But this system has come closer than any before it to curing diabetes permanently, giving hope to many. Dr. Gittes believes he and his team are close to that point. He thinks it’s possible that he could soon be recognized as the researcher responsible for curing diabetes, thanks to the virus he and his team have created.
“I think I get more excited about it when I tell people about it and see their excitement,” he said.
In the video below, learn more about this novel diabetes cure in the making, and also hear from diabetic patients who hope teir lives will be forever changed after this research team finishes their project!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?