Gene Therapy Stops Type 1 in Dogs
Inserting two genes into the muscles of dogs with type 1 diabetes appeared to cure the disease, a study found. The feat was accomplished using gene therapy, a controversial medical approach that, after some recent successes, is gaining interest. In this procedure, viruses insert genes into cells, where they produce proteins, such as insulin, to counteract disease. In this study, the researchers inserted the gene for insulin and the gene for glucokinase (an enzyme that acts as a glucose sensor) into the dogs' muscles. Glucokinase told the muscle cells how much insulin to dispense into the blood based on current glucose levels. The dogs maintained normal blood glucose levels without episodes of low blood glucose throughout the four-year study. Still, gene therapy remains risky for humans—for example, if a gene were inserted at the wrong place, it could trigger the development of tumors. More research is needed before the treatment can be tested in people.
Source: Diabetes, published online Feb. 1, 2013