You are currently browsing the archives for the Diabetes Research category.

Archive for the ‘Diabetes Research’ Category

Should Congress Ban Chimera Research?

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 06-09-2010

If you haven’t yet heard about the movie Splice from WB pictures then it is a sign that you likely are spending too much time in the lab away from civilization. In the movie, Genetic Engineers who specialize in splicing together DNA from different animals create a animal-human hybrid that is strangely beautiful and intelligent but ends up becoming their worst nightmare.

There have been a ton of posts surrounding the launch of Splice. Anthony Kaufman of The Wall Street Journal wrote a post on the reality behind the movie splice where he gave honorable mention to the Venter Institute’s recently created synthetic microbe Mycoplasma mycoides.

ABC news is reporting that in the wake of the movie Splice, animal-human hybrids have been banned in some states.

Is this smart policy or simply a knee-jerk reaction by naïve politicians? What are the ramifications of these policies?

Let’s consider that chimera research has huge potential for creating new therapeutics such as sheep with human livers and pancreas cells, mice with human immune systems and many other combinations of human and animal cells. According to the ABC report, different countries have taken divergent approaches to chimera research. The UK approved chimera research in 2008, Canada has banned it altogether and the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009 failed to pass the U.S. Congress.

Since we have been discussing diabetes this week, I thought that I’d do some exploration into the extent of chimera tools in diabetes research. There are several papers highlighting the success of inter-species research in the development of human therapeutics . One study involves xenotransplantation of porcine islets of Langerhans into a type 1 diabetic woman. The transplant helped alleviate her metabolic complications and insulin requirements as shown in a 3-year post transplantation follow up study.

Some scientists are concerned that xenotransplantation may lead to transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans (otherwise known as zoonosis…which kind or reminds me of the “pigman” episode in Seinfeld). While this certainly poses a concern, a recent study at Mexico University National Autonomous shows no evidence of porcine endogenous retrovirus in patients with type 1 diabetes after long-term porcine islet xenotransplantation.

While the above studies focused on xenotransplantation and not animal-human hybrids per se, xenotransplantation usually relies on somatic cell cloning and genetic engineering which involves the cloning of human genetic material into animal models. Furthermore, the creation of animals that express the human form of diabetes is necessary for studying mechanisms of disease that could otherwise not have been studied without a “humanized” animal model. One such study demonstrated that transgenic-cloned pigs with typical symptom of diabetes can be successfully produced by inducing a dominant-negative mutant using a human mutant gene. In this study out of Japan, transgenic-cloned pigs carrying a mutant human hepatocyte nuclear factor 1 gene were produced using a combined technology of intracytoplasmic sperm injection-mediated gene transfer and somatic cell nuclear transfer. Others, such as Elagin et. al. have found that the expression of certain human autoantigens in transgenic mice are necessary for studying molecular mechanisms of disease and developing antigen-specific immune-interventions.

In any event, we see that the movement of genetic material between species (as has been done for decades) is necessary for research into the mechanisms of human disease and is useful for the development of various therapeutics.

The current bill (bill 243) which passed in the Ohio Senate prohibits “the creation, transportation, or receipt of a human-animal hybrid, the transfer of a nonhuman embryo into a human womb, and the transfer of a human embryo into a nonhuman womb.” While this issue was discussed as far back as 2005 (see Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy in National Geographic) we are now seeing the benefits of such research and it would be a shame to stymie its progress.

Many readers of this blog are on the front lines of genetic engineering. What do you think about the recent bill passed in the Ohio Senate? Are these laws going to impact on your current research projects?

Perhaps legislators have simply been watching too many Zemezyz videos?

DRI Scientist Discusses Reducing Inflammatory Response to Transplant in Diabetics

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 06-08-2010

Islet cell transplantation is one of the most promising treatments for type 1 and severe type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, as with many transplantation techniques, the body’s autoimmune response is a major stumbling block to successful graft survival. Furthermore, unlike in other transplantation situations (kidney transplants for example), no biomarkers currently exist that can help predict the onset of islet cell graft rejection.

Dr. Norma Sue Kenyon from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) is an expert in work in the area of transplant immunology and her research focuses on anti-rejection techniques and stem cell therapy. In this podcast she discusses the challenges facing the islet cell transplant community.

Diabetes Research Institute Podcast

Visit the DRI website for the full written transcript of this interview.

Video Explanation on the Basics of Diabetes

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 06-07-2010

A nice primer from Dr. Craig Blackwell.

A Tattoo for your health

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 06-07-2010

Great story out of MIT. Chemical engineers at MIT are designing carbon nanotubes that can be injected beneath the skin to reveal continuous blood glucose levels in real time. If it works, people with Type I diabetes may not have to prick their fingers multiple times a day to monitor their glucose levels. Check out the full story on CNET.

Blogging my way into a Diabetic Coma

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 06-07-2010

Having recently passed the half-year mark since starting the American Biotechnologist Blog, I took some time to reflect on what’s been accomplished and what goals I have achieved. In the course of my personal musings I discovered that the more time I spend in front of a computer, the more I expand my mind (an intended consequence) and my girth (an unintended consequence). As an educated individual, I understand that a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to my health but nonetheless, in order to justify my behavior I undertook a research project (OK…more like a 5 minute google search) to try and find sources for the health benefits associated with computer use. One interesting blog post that I found discussed a study out of Toronto, Canada showing that computer use helps reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment by up to 50%. While that sounded like a good justification for my addictive computer habit, the study also found that computer use had to be in combination with moderate physical exercise to be of any benefit. (I’m pretty sure that walking from my home office to my kitchen for my 10 minute interval snack doesn’t qualify as moderate exercise.)

The next “authority” that I found on the subject of blogging as a form of neurological exercise was by a fellow named Irving. Irving is an active blogger and has written an intriguing post on his personal exercise and blogging habits. His post is broken down into 4 areas: activity; nutrition; socialization; and mental stimulation. Irving makes the claim that “it is reasonable to view blogging as a form of mental exercise that will hopefully help keep (his) brain as healthy as possible for as long as possible.” Nonetheless, Irving’s post is rife with evidence that supports the theory that physical exercise is crucial for mental health and that blogging alone just won’t cut it.

All kidding aside, one of the negative consequences associated with our ever-increasing sedentary lifestyle is the epidemic rise in the number of cases of type II diabetes among the American adult population. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, as of 2007 over 23.5 Million Americans over the age of 20 were affected with Diabetes and Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2006. In addition to being a leading cause of death, Diabetes also causes heart disease and stroke, blindness, high blood pressure, kidney disease, nervous system disease, amputations, dental disease and other complications.

So how does all of this relate to us, the American Biotechnology blogging community? Currently there are thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of research studies focused on understanding the mechanisms of and finding a cure for diabetes. A simple search of the term “diabetes” on pubmed returned over 350,000 articles. The biotechnology research community is on the forefront in the fight against diabetes.

A lot of excitement was generated last year when an international study out of Israel and Harvard University reported that a drug called alpha-1-antritrypsin eliminates inflammation that causes failure of islet cell transplantation. Furthermore, since the drug was already approved for another indication, the FDA was able to fast-track human clinical trials which began in 2008.

Dr. Eli Lewis, the lead investigator in this study, is a prominent diabetes researcher and an active blogger who spends time fielding questions from concerned patients.

Over the next few weeks, we will make a concerted effort to follow up on this story and hopefully get an update from Dr. Lewis on the alpha-1-antritrypsin story.

We would also like to hear from other Diabetes researchers on their stories and the current state of affairs in their labs. If you are a Diabetes researcher please send us your story in the form of a written post or video and we would be delighted to highlight your research in this forum. We would also like to create links from this blog to sites that are valuable to the Diabetes research community. So if have a site that you find useful in your Diabetes research, please do share and we will post it here on the American Biotechechnologist.

I look forward to your feedback!