Researchers at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Spain have managed to successfully apply a long-term regulator for type 1 diabetes in five beagles. The dogs no longer require insulin injections because of a minimally invasive, efficacious gene therapy administered in the animal trial.
The study was led by Fàtima Bosch, a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and director of the Center for Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy (CBATEG).
After a single therapy session, the dogs were longer symptomatic. In some cases, no physical manifestation of diabetes appeared throughout four years of observation.
The injections introduced dual purpose gene vectors; one expressed insulin and the other an enzyme (glucokinase) meant to aid in the uptake of glucose. The synchronized therapy successfully reduced diabetic hyperglycemia.
The same therapy had been tested on mice before graduating to larger animal subjects. Beagles are the most commonly used dog breed in animal testing, because of their size and temperament.
With continued success, this type of gene therapy has the potential to be used in veterinary and human endocrinology as a viable treatment for diabetes mellitus.
Type 1 diabetes is a common chronic metabolic disease associated with high levels of glucose present in the blood. Individuals with type 1 diabetes can no longer produce or regulate their own insulin. Instead the immune system recognizes the pancreatic beta cells and destroys them.
Insulin is a peptide hormone responsible for controlling sugar levels. It is produced by the pancreas. A lack of adequate or inconsistent insulin allows glucose to accumulate in the bloodstream instead of going into the cells where it’s used for energy.
Insulin-dependent patients require multiple injections of manufactured insulin daily to live. Otherwise they risk developing secondary complications such as limb amputation and blindness. Excessive levels of insulin can bring about hypoglycemia (sudden drop in blood sugar).
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