Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Sunday, August 29, 1999 Published at 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK


Diabetes breakthrough could lead to treatment

Type one diabetics require frequent insulin injections

A therapy for the a form of diabetes could be on the horizon after a scientific breakthrough.

Type one diabetes sufferers cannot produce enough insulin, the natural substance which controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream.

This is because cells in the body which produce insulin have been damaged.

And once the damage has taken place, sufferers rely on injections of insulin to control their blood sugar levels - without the daily injections, death is inevitable.

[ image: Life as a diabetic often requires an inconvenient blood testing regime]
Life as a diabetic often requires an inconvenient blood testing regime
But British researcher Dr Susan Wong, working at Yale University School of Medicine, believes she has found how cells from the body's immune system attack and damage the cells.

This is an important step in finding ways to block this, and produce a treatment, or possibly even a vaccine.

What Dr Wong's team have found is an molecule that can provoke the body's defenses into an attack. It is hoped that eventually it can given in the form of a treatment which will make the immune system tolerant of it.

Then the body will leave the insulin-producing cells alone to do their job, and remove the need for injections.

Diabetes experts from around the world have hailed the team's findings.

'Amazing finding'

Dr Mark Peakman, from Kings College Hospital in London, is working on a similar project.

He said: "I was excited when I heard about this - it's a pretty amazing finding.

"If you know what the targets are, there is a possibility of developing a way of blocking the attack."

But Dr Peakman warned that such experimentation would demand great care, as an extra supply of the molecule could provoke a massive immune reaction.

The study was published in the September edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

Type I diabetes sufferers usually develop the condition as children or young adults.

If poorly controlled it can cause blindness, stroke, kidney failure and amputation.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

03 Jun 99 | Health
Obesity threatens ill health epidemic

02 Jun 99 | Health
Patch could improve life for diabetics

30 Apr 99 | Health
Action needed to prevent premature diabetes deaths

12 Jan 99 | Medical notes
Diabetes: The facts

Internet Links

American Diabetes Association

Nature Medicine

British Diabetic Association

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99