November is Diabetes Awarness Month and November 14th is World Diabetes Day. With that we would like to feature Harvard Medical School's Dr. Denise Faustman, who has been awarded the 2011 George and Judith Goldman Angel Award for her biomedical research on a cure for Type 1 diabetes.
(Image courtesy of FaustmanLab)
In 2001, Dr. Faustman began testing a vaccine called BCG, which is normally used in tuberculosis patients, on mice. Her results showed that BCG prevented T cells from destroying cells that produce insulin, which in turn allowed the pancreas to regenerate and produce its own insulin.
(Image courtsey of Wikipedia)
These findings stand in stark contrast to the long standing belief that once insulin secreting cells are destroyed, they are gone forever. This has focused research on preventing these cells from being destroyed rather than attempting to regenerate them.
Initially, the medical community was highly skeptical of Dr. Faustman's work, even restricting the type of language she could use in her published reports.
However, in light of recent developments, research paradigms may be changing.
Dr. Faustman is now beginning clinical trials of the drug on humans. Tests with low doses have already begun to show promising results. Dr. Eva Mezey, director of the stem-cell unit at the National Institue of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and immunology expert, says, that the results are "fascinating and very promising."
According to Dr. Robert Henry of UC San Diego, the results, if "reproducible and correct, could be a phenomenal finding."
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