Scientists: Gene Therapy Cures Diabetes in Dogs

Monday, 11 Feb 2013 12:22 PM

By Nick Tate

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Spanish scientists have successfully cured type 1 diabetes in dogs with a single session of gene therapy that they said holds promise for one day treating human patients.

The advance, developed by researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, represents the first time the disease has been cured in large animals, marking a fundamental step toward applying the therapy in humans.

The technique, detailed in the journal Diabetes, involves introducing a "glucose sensor" into the dogs' leg muscles, allowing them to recover from the disease and remain symptom free. In some cases, the dogs appeared completely cured, with no recurrence of diabetes after four years.

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"This study is the first to demonstrate a long-term cure for diabetes in a large animal model using gene therapy," said lead researcher Fàtima Bosch.

The therapy involves a single session of various injections into the animal's rear legs of a gene therapy agent designed to regulate uptake of glucose from the blood, which reduces hyperglycemia — the excess of blood sugar associated with diabetes. Dogs treated with the therapy showed good glucose control, both when fasting and when fed, with no episodes of hypoglycemia.

Past research by Bosch’s team tested the therapy on mice, but the success of the approach in large animals opens the door to clinical trials of the gene therapy in human diabetic patients.

Diabetes mellitus is the most common metabolic disease, and many patients require insulin injections two to three times a day. Despite treatment, diabetics often develop serious complications like blindness and kidney damage.

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