A team of scientists working with the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain now claim to have succeeded in curing a pair of diabetic Beagles with the help of gene therapy.
From their standpoint, this major scientific breakthrough could eventually lead to their developing a cure for people currently suffering with type 1 diabetes.
Apparently, these Beagles have also displayed the aforementioned medical condition and, courtesy of their being administered two different genes, they have managed to go over four years without their blood glucose levels turning topsy-turvy every once in a while and, quite obviously, without dying.
In order to treat the Beagles in this innovative manner, the researchers have resorted to a harmless virus that helped them deliver the two genes into the muscles located on the dogs' legs.
As the scientists explain, these two genes must necessarily be used in combination, seeing how one of them is responsible for making insulin, while the other produces an enzyme whose sole purpose is that of keeping track of and controlling how much glucose gets to be absorbed into muscles.
New Scientist reports that, when trying to administer just one of these genes to Beagles, the animals failed to get better and passed away quite shortly after the scientists' attempts to cure them in this manner.
Prior to their carrying out these experiments on dogs, the researchers resorted to using mice as their test subjects.
Once this second phase of their using gene therapy to cure diabetes, i.e. the one involving the use of large animals, comes to an end, it is to be expected that a clinical trial involving human patients will be rolled out.
“This work is an interesting new avenue which may give us a completely new type of treatment. The researchers' plan to test the treatment in a larger number of dogs with naturally occurring [type 1] diabetes is a sensible way to gather stronger evidence that will be needed before this experimental treatment is ready to be tested in humans,” argued Matthew Hobbs, head of research at the charity Diabetes UK.
Still, other specialists wish to make it quite clear that, because the dogs used in these experiments have had their pancreatic cells artificially destroyed by the researchers, and not by their own immune systems, further investigations are needed.