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.
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.
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
- 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