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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Gene hope for diabetics
Ania Lichtarowicz
BBC health reporter

Scientists from the United States and Japan have successfully treated diabetic mice by inserting healthy genes in the animals.

BBC image
Insulin-making genes were injected into the mice
This new form of gene therapy, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, could lead to a novel approach for treating the growing problem of diabetes.

Diabetics do not produce enough of the sugar-controlling hormone called insulin.

This means that they cannot control their blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious problems with the kidneys, legs, eyes and heart.

If left untreated, diabetes can cause strokes and dementia, and even be fatal.

Global problem

Diabetics can manage their condition by diet or through regular insulin injections, but this treatment is far from perfect.

So doctors have been looking at using gene therapy to improve care.

They have tried replacing damaged pancreatic cells - where insulin is made - with cells from healthy individuals but the procedure is risky.

So, instead, this team of scientists inserted insulin-making genes in diabetic mice.

This transformed liver cells into cells which then produced normal levels of insulin and meant that the diabetic mice appeared completely healthy.

Gene therapy treatments like this could offer hope for controlling what is becoming a major health problem around the world.

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04 Dec 02  |  Sci/Tech
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