Boston Children’s Hospital Finds Root Cause of Diabetes
Boston Children’s Hospital could be on the verge of curing type 1 diabetes. Seriously. This huge news, which was announced today on their blog, could affect the 215,000 people in the U.S. younger than 20 who have diabetes (type 1 or type 2). That’s a pretty huge number, so it’s no wonder why it’s been called an epidemic.
People who live with type 1 diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin to regulate the glucose in their blood. It’s an immediate fix, but there are many long-term complications associated with diabetes, like heart and kidney diseases, nerve problems, skin issues, and problems with vision, among others. “Insulin injections can manage hyperglycemia by reducing the patient’s glucose levels, but it is not the cure,” says Dr. Paolo Fiorina of the Nephrology Division at Boston Children’s Hospital in the report. The Nephrology Division was recently ranked number one in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
Fiorina was looking for the molecular pathway that triggers diabetes, hoping to find better treatment options with the ultimate goal of finding a permanent cure. “In order to truly cure diabetes, we needed to pinpoint exactly why this happens. And then prevent it,” Fiorina says.
According to Boston Children’s Hospital, Fiorina and his team found the root cause of type 1 diabetes:
Fiorina and his team studied hundreds of pathways in animals with diabetes. They eventually isolated one, known as ATP/P2X7R, which triggers the T-cell attacks on the pancreas, rendering it unable to produce insulin.
“By identifying the ATP/P2X7R pathway as the early mechanism in the body that fires up an alloimmune response, we found the root cause of diabetes,” says Fiorina. “With the cause identified, we can now focus on treatment options. Everything from drug therapies to transplants that require less immunosuppression is being explored.”
It will still be a few years before they can test the therapies in children, but the outcome of what was discovered here could be truly amazing.
“I believe it won’t be long before we can cure diabetes with a number of different therapies depending on the needs of the patient,” Fiorina says on the blog. “Then, if the right screening techniques for diabetes could be developed, it would be entirely possible in many cases that we could prevent the disease from ever developing in children. The future of diabetes treatment is very exciting.”