MONTREAL (CUP) — A McGill University researcher has developed a non-invasive technique that may hold the cure for diabetes. Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg and Dr. Arthur Vinik, a University of Michigan colleague, have completed new work that hinges on the INGAP gene, which the two discovered in 1997. The gene produces the INGAP protein that apparently induces pancreatic cells to produce insulin. Many patients with diabetes are unable to produce their own insulin and must take daily injections.
The treatment has entered the first phase of clinical trials to test for toxicity in humans. If successful, diabetes sufferers will no longer need costly insulin injections or the inconvenience of constant blood tests.
The clinical trials, which began in recent weeks, use the INGAP protein to stimulate diabetes patients to produce insulin without the need for daily injections.
“Assuming the trials are successful, we could see this being used within five years,” Rosenberg said. “If they are very successful, we could get fast track approval by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] in the U.S. and see it being used even faster.”
Rosenberg accidentally discovered the INGAP protein while researching pancreatic cancer formation due to partially obstructed ducts in the pancreas. It seemed that INGAP also caused cells to differentiate and start producing insulin. Using animal models to test his hypothesis, Rosenberg found he could artificially induce the formation of insulin producing cells.
“There would be no need for the gene therapy or any medication,” Rosenberg said. “The treatment causes patients to make their own insulin. I’m very optimistic about it.”
If the clinical trials are successful, the treatment could garner international commendations and potentially millions of dollars in revenue.
Diabetes affects approximately 1.4 million Canadians and is the seventh leading cause of death in Canada. It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and limb amputations. Diabetes Health Canada reported that in economic terms, the burden of diabetes to the Canadian population due to health care costs, disability, work loss, and premature death is estimated to be up to $9 billion annually.