DIABETES COMBINATION THERAPY: Doctors think two therapies may be better than one when it comes to treating diabetes. Existing therapies are called monotherapeutic, meaning just one drug is used. Doctors believe this approach slows disease progression, but isn't enough to cure it. The new combination therapy uses two components -- a first drug injection over several days that dampens the immune system, and a vaccine administered through a nasal spray inhaler, a traditional injection or an oral pill. The combination therapy is designed to prevent the destruction of beta cells, which make insulin. The therapy is only for individuals recently diagnosed with diabetes or with pre-diabetes because long-term sufferers have too few beta cells left. Researchers hope the therapy is able to cure diabetes when the disease is first diagnosed, eliminating the lifelong dependence on insulin injection therapy and the risk of complications such as kidney failure, amputations and blindness. The therapy has not been FDA-approved yet, but researchers are hopeful clinical trials will be successful. Trials of the drug are starting in San Diego at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, in San Francisco, at Yale University Medical Center in New Haven, Conn. and in Australia.
Source: Mattias von Herrath, M.D., researcher at La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
ALS THERAPY: ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, is a devastating, progressive disease in which a gene mutation attacks the nerve cells of the central nervous system, leaving patients unable to control voluntary muscle function. It is a fatal, hereditary disease with no known cure, affecting between 7,500 and 10,000 new patients every year. Typically, patients live only three to five years after initial diagnosis. This new therapy is designed to slow the progression of the disease by silencing the mutated gene, protecting neurons from premature death. Researchers hope a treatment of therapeutic molecules known as antisense oligonucleotides can be delivered to the brain and spinal cord through the spinal fluid to slow ALS progression. When tested in rats in a laboratory setting, the therapy was shown to be effective. To deliver the treatment to patients, surgeons would implant a small pump into a patient and a catheter into the area surrounding the spinal cord, allowing antisense oligonucleotide drugs to be continuously pumped directly into the nervous system. Doctors say the implantation surgery is routine, similar to pain management devices implanted everyday across the country. Researchers say if the gene-silencing therapy proves effective, a similar approach could be used to treat patients suffering from other neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. Clinical trials in humans could begin as early as the start of 2008.
Source: Don Cleveland, Ph.D., Neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego
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La Jolla Institute
Copyright 2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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