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New research from Univ. of Toledo may unlock secrets of treating Type I diabetes

KEITH ARNOLD
Special to the Legal News

Published: February 26, 2019

Researchers from the University of Toledo have figured out a new way to replicate the development and progression of Type I diabetes in lab mice, the university announced last week.

Considered a breakthrough with the potential of reshaping how the chronic disease, which afflicts an estimated 1.25 million Americans, is studied, the research and findings were published Feb. 7 in the natural sciences journal Scientific Reports.

While the condition can be managed with insulin, finding a treatment or cure for the disease has been elusive - in part, because scientists have not had a reliable animal model that mimics the full scope of human Type I diabetes, a press release detailed.

"We see these patients every day," said the study's senior author Dr. Juan Jaume, professor of medicine at UT's College of Medicine and Life Sciences. "We see them come to the hospital, we see how they struggle.

"Unfortunately, research has been held back because the scientific community didn't have a good model to study the disease and its progression. Now we do. We have developed a mouse model that is a step forward toward finding a cure."

Jaume, who also is chief of the Division of Endocrinology and director of UT's Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, and Dr. Shahnawaz Imam, a senior researcher and associate member of the diabetes center, looked at how a certain protein can influence T-cells in the pancreas to delay the onset of diabetes.

In the new model, mice spontaneously develop Type I diabetes and the full range of complications experienced by diabetes patients, allowing for the study of the disease and its natural progression.

"Our model is showing exactly the same physiopathology that humans with diabetes suffer," Imam said. "Our mice are getting eye problems, they are getting kidney problems and also neuropathy.

"That's a very important part of this - they have the same human complications that all diabetes patients have, not just those with Type I."

The laboratory mice were developed through a series of selective breeding experiments and genetic modification that included adding human genes to them.

A provisional patent on the Spontaneous Type I Diabetes Mouse Model was filed last year, the press release noted.

Though many species develop diabetes, Jaume said the process of Type I diabetes seems to be unique to humans. Scientists previously have used other specially bred mice, including what's known as the non-obese diabetic mouse, to study diabetes and test treatments. The lab animals, however, didn't mimic the exact human pathophysiology of the disease.

The scientists are hopeful they will be able to apply the same idea to the CAR T-cell therapy for cancer.

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