Friday, 22 May 2015

[Straits Times] Progress in search for diabetes cure

WE ARE grateful to the Kidney Dialysis Foundation for its funding and continual support of our research at the National University of Singapore ("Efforts made towards cure for diabetes"; Monday).
The almost epidemic increase in diabetes, with its horrible complications in all parts of the body, including kidney failure,
is stimulating research workers to develop new forms of treatment.
Considerable advances have been made in mechanical pumps and transplantation of the cells that produce insulin.
Our focus has been on a biological treatment that could have wide applications, namely to use the human gene that produces insulin as a long-term control of diabetes after a single injection.
The research is based on successful treatment of patients suffering from the bleeding disease haemophilia, with a cure lasting at least four years from one injection in the vein.
We are collaborating with the scientists at University College London who achieved this success, using the human insulin gene inserted into a harmless virus, which acts like a "trojan horse" carrying the gene into the liver, where it produces a constant output of insulin.
While there are still considerable obstacles, we have worked hard to obtain a correct dose of the gene that is not too high or too low, and we now have some initial positive results.
We are looking forward to the next step, which might be to try to rescue some dogs which develop diabetes naturally, using the same approach and, once again, we will have to discover the right dosage.
The production of insulin as a constant background supply should be of value to many diabetic patients.
But, of course, it would be better if the insulin could be produced according to blood sugar levels, as happens in non-diabetic normal people.
We are attempting to develop such a control mechanism, but this feat has been difficult for many centres to achieve in the past few years.
Nevertheless, progress has been made and we are pursuing this target as a main priority.
Roy Calne (Professor)
Principal Investigator
National University of Singapore-Kidney Dialysis Foundation grant