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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Mice cured of diabetes?   (December 22, 2006)

In a recent story that I wrote for this blog, Rat research and media hype, I pointed out that rat research can be overtaken by media hype.

It now appears that mouse research also is capable of being blown out of proportion. First some background: there’s a type of diabetes in mice that’s called NOD diabetes. It’s used as an experimental model to test ideas about treatment and prevention of diabetes.

So, anyway, there’s a flurry of recent news items about Canadian research that according to one story, Scientists Cure Diabetes In Mice“amazingly diabetic mice tested healthy virtually overnight.” The actual article, from the journal Cellhas an appropriately jargony title: TRPV1+ Sensory Neurons Control β Cell Stress and Islet Inflammation in Autoimmune Diabetes, and again the media is overreacting to some very preliminary (although important) work.

As a more cautious reporter adds: “The Canadian researchers caution that any actual treatment for humans is years away, but say it's still very exciting.” Sure it’s exciting to the researchers -- their hypothesis worked, and they can continue to expand on it, get more publicity and more grant money, and maybe someday have a technique that will have promise for people. But people have to remember that NOD is a type of diabetes that exists only in mice. The closest human disorder is type 1 diabetes, which may or may not react the same way as NOD diabetes in mice. And of course, type 2 diabetes in people is an entirely different disorder, and the results in NOD mice will not impact folks with type 2.

So, we’ll have to wait and see what happens next. And don’t be surprised if it may be a long wait.

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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