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Diabetes: New Treatments - Topic Overview

New insulin therapies

The insulin patch is another new method currently under development. An insulin patch functions much the same way as a nicotine patch. A patch is placed on your skin, usually on your arm, where it delivers a constant low dose of insulin. To increase your insulin dose at meal times, you remove a tab on the patch to expose the skin to more insulin. While the patch provides a very convenient, painless method of insulin delivery, insulin does not travel through the skin easily.

New shorter needles are available that make it less likely that you would inject insulin into a muscle. Newer needles are also smaller in diameter, which makes injections less painful.

Genetic therapies

Researchers have recently identified a gene that is linked to insulin resistance and that might predispose a person to type 2 diabetes. This gene seems to promote excess production of a protein called PC-1, which interferes with insulin's ability to help a cell use glucose. It is hoped that this knowledge will help identify people who may develop type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives and possibly help improve their treatment. Possible therapies might include:

  • Diabetes vaccines. An experimental vaccine to prevent type 1 diabetes is being tested in mice. The vaccine, composed of DNA, is designed to stop or prevent the body's destruction of its islet cells.
  • Gene therapy. Scientists have genetically engineered liver cells to produce insulin. This procedure varies slightly from islet cell transplants because the DNA that produces insulin is actually inserted into liver cells. A drawback of this therapy is that insulin produced by the liver is not regulated in the same way it would be if it were produced by the pancreas. The liver does not increase the output of insulin when a person eats and then decrease it between meals. Instead, the liver produces a fairly constant amount of insulin. This could cause problems at meal times for some people who have diabetes.
  • Stem cells. Researchers are exploring whether stem cells might be used to make cells that produce insulin. Stem cells are early cells that have the ability to grow into any type of cell.
  • Immune system modulators. Scientists are studying whether certain medicines can be given to people early in the course of their type 1 diabetes to keep their remaining insulin-producing cells from being destroyed.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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