The technique holds promise for humans, but much more money is needed, the scientists say
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Massachusetts researchers say they have cured type 1 diabetes in mice.
And the technique they used -- injecting spleen cells that remarkably turned themselves into insulin-producing cells -- holds great promise for people with the disease. However, the scientists say, a lack of funding for the necessary human clinical trials is hampering their work.
The researchers, led by Dr. Denise L. Faustman, director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Immunobiology Laboratory, are reporting in the Nov. 14 issue of Science that their technique seems applicable to other autoimmune conditions, in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissue.
"We must get 500 calls a month from people who want to be in clinical trials," Faustman says. "The enthusiasm of the patient population is impressive."
"There is a huge amount of momentum required that people don't appreciate in moving from raising $1 million dollars a year to raising $20 million a year to get human trials started," she adds.
The animal studies have been financed primarily by the Iacocca Foundation, set up by automotive legend Lee Iacocca to support diabetes research after his wife, Mary, died of complications of the disease. But "they don't have the resources to scale up to human clinical trials," Faustman says.
The demand for human trials of the technique is there, Faustman says,
expressed by patients who must give themselves insulin injections day after
day to stay alive and well.
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