Gene therapy may be the long awaited magic pill
for diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Studies in animals have shown
Dogs are the most amazing creatures who give us
unconditional love and affection. It is indeed sad that they too can be struck
with nasty diseases. Diabetes mellitus is one of them. This epidemic is not
just limited to humans—it is increasing amongst dogs as well. Several factors
such as breed, age, gender, weight, diet, virus infections, an inflamed
pancreas etc could increase a dog's risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease, which can be
classified as Type 1 (lack of insulin production) or Type II (impaired insulin
production along with an inadequate response to the hormone). Type 1 diabetes
is commonly seen in dogs, wherein the pancreas is incapable of secreting
adequate levels of insulin.
Generally upon consumption of a meal by a dog,
the food is broken down into various components, including glucose, which is
carried into the cells by insulin. When insulin is not produced or utilized
normally, it causes elevation of blood sugar levels or 'hyperglycemia', which,
if left untreated, can cause many complicated health problems for the dog.
Insulin-dependent diabetes in dogs was thought of
as a life-long disease, but recently researchers from the Universitat
Autònoma de Barcelona
(UAB), led by Fàtima Bosch, have shown for the very
first time that it is possible to cure diabetes in large animals with a single
session of gene therapy.
which was published in the journal Diabetes
, showed that the dogs
recovered their health and no longer showed symptoms of diabetes after a single
gene therapy session. In some cases, the dogs appeared to be completely cured,
and they did not have recurrence of diabetes even after four years. The success
of this study in large animals has opened up new avenues and has ushered in new
hope for a cure in human diabetic patients.
The head researcher, Fàtima Bosch points out,
"this study is the first to demonstrate a long-term cure for diabetes in a
large animal model using gene therapy."
The therapy, which is minimally invasive, consists of a
single session of various injections of viral vectors carrying two genes, which
is administered in the animal's rear legs. These vectors, known as
adeno-associated vectors are commonly used in gene therapy and are derived from
Out of the two injected genes, one gene produces insulin,
and the other makes glucokinase which regulates the amount of insulin produced
based on the level of sugar in the blood, which in turn reduces diabetic
Dogs treated with this therapy showed good glucose control,
both in a fasting and fed state, with no episodes of hypoglycemia even after
Previously, the same group of researchers had shown that a
similar treatment was effective in mice, but the current study not only
demonstrated long term control of diabetes, but also proved that the diabetic
dogs were able to maintain normoglycemia and normal levels of glycosylated
proteins with no secondary complications even after 4 years with the disease.
researchers said that more studies on animals will be needed to gather stronger evidence before this
experimental treatment is ready to be tested in humans. However, the current
study opens up promising new avenues which may pave way to give us a completely
new type of treatment of diabetes in humans in the near future.