Diabetes Type 2 can be cured by drugs that mimic rare gene mutations. It is an amazing scientific discovery, which will lead to the development of drugs in ten to twenty years. The gene mutation, called SLC30A8, has been seen in different races of people and decreases the chances of developing Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 by 65 percent. The mutation acts on a gene used by pancreas cells where insulin is made and eliminates it, so that the person is protected from the disease. The fact that different races were affected similarly means those drugs created for prevention of the disease could be effective world-wide.
After poring over the results of studies completed by the Icelandic company, deCode, Amgen decided to buy the company and its important data. Amgen’s mission is to unlock the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses by discovering, developing, manufacturing and delivering innovative human therapeutics. The data were new and because of the small numbers of study participants, were not published until further research could gather more data. Pfizer pharmaceutical company helped finance the trials.
Another reason not to publish the findings was that previous laboratory findings with mice indicated that the mutation acted in an opposite manner, and mice with the mutation were afflicted with diabetes symptoms. That just meant more work had to be done.
Once two more studies were performed, and a total of 150,000 participants were included, the findings were published in Nature Genetics. David Altshuler, the main author of the results and a professor at Harvard Medical School, is interested mainly in the ability to find targets for the use of gene therapy in order to prevent and cure patients that suffer from Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. The international team of researchers also included the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital.
This is the first time that a scientific discovery of a gene mutation has been seen as being beneficial to the fight against medical disorders. Diabetes can be cured by drugs that mimic gene mutation; although it will take some time to develop these drugs. The mutation disrupts the function of the protein ZnT8.
Those participants with the mutation, around 33, were protected from Type 2 diabetes by producing slightly more insulin. They also showed lower glucose levels, although these people ate and drank what they pleased in most cases. In fact, most of those with the mutation had at least one indicator of risk for diabetes. Earlier studies had shown the protein played an important role in the insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas, by transporting zinc into the cells.
The next step for scientists is to make sure the gene mutation will have no ill effects on humans, since the creation of a drug to combat diabetes would need to be safe. The outcome of these efforts would make a tremendous change for those 26 million adults and children with full-blown Diabetes Mellitus type 2, and those 79 million with pre-diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes prevention and cure may be coming around the pharmaceutical corner in ten to twenty years, not a bad wait for the positive results that will occur for millions of sufferers.
By Lisa M Pickering