Procedure cures some diabetic mice, but not in the way previously reported

Researchers attempting to reproduce a controversial 2003 mouse experiment suggestive of a cure for type 1 diabetes have found evidence that the experimental procedure does eliminate diabetic symptoms in a small fraction of the mice exposed to it.

However, scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found no signs that the procedure was working in the manner reported by the group of scientists at Harvard University who originated it.

The Washington University group is one of three labs reporting in the March 24 issue of Science on attempts to reproduce the earlier experiment. All three groups independently found no evidence of a key claim of the earlier study: that cells injected from the spleens of healthy mice had formed new insulin-producing beta cells in the diabetic mice, a finding that created hope that the approach might be used to cure diabetes in humans.

"We showed that various immunological processes had rejected the injected cells," says senior author Emil R. Unanue, M.D., Mallinckrodt Professor of Pathology and Immunology. "In the mice who were cured, we found no evidence linking restoration of beta cell function to the spleen cell injections."

Researchers are following up on the study with new experiments designed to determine how the mice were cured.

"It's a positive thing that 4 of 22 mice recovered beta cell function, and we're investigating where that recovery of beta cell function came from," says lead author Anish Suri, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of pathology and immunology in Unanue's lab. "Conceivably, controlling the autoimmune response in patients with early diabetes may allow for recovery of some beta cell function and a degree of reversion of the diabetic process."

As in the 2003 experiment, researchers performed their studies in female mice from the NOD mouse strain, which develops diabetes in a manner very similar to human type 1 diabetes mellitus. Be

Contact: Michael C. Purdy
Washington University School of Medicine

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