In a July 2001 article published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a team of researchers from the Immunobiology Laboratory at Harvard Medical School claimed to reverse established autoimmune diabetes in the NOD mouse by restoring beta cell function through the use of immunomodulation to stop the disease process and spleen cells to create new islets. An additional paper was published in the November 14, 2003 issue of Science. This research captured the imagination of many people in the type 1 community because it appeared to be a novel approach to curing type 1 diabetes. Lee Iacocca, of Chrysler fame, became a champion of Dr. Faustman's work and offered both his name and his money to help bring the research to human clinical trials.
Many in the scientific community expressed skepticism at this work. Scientists questioned the findings, and attempts to reproduce the results did not meet with the same results reported by Dr. Faustman and her team. Other scientists questioned the applicability of a cure in the NOD mouse to human type 1 diabetes, noting that all other successful therapies in the NOD mouse had failed in humans, including part of the process she had used. Major funding organizations, including the JDRF, would not help fund the research.
In March 2006, three separate research teams published the results of trials that were designed to replicate the work of Dr. Faustman. While these studies did show some success, the rates of cure were significantly lower than reported by Dr. Faustman and her team. Furthermore, none were able to show new insulin producing cells derived from spleen cells. The Joslin Diabetes Center has an excellent summary of what these studies mean at Information About the Latest Research Findings on Type 1 Diabetes Published in the Journal Science.
While Faustman, her team, and some others in the diabetes research community see these three studies as vindicating her work, many other scientists do not, especially given the low cure rates, lack of presence of spleen-derived islets, and concerns over the use of CFA, which was part of the initial treatment. However CFA is not part of the plan for human trials -- BCG is -- and some don't care how the additional islets were formed, noting that it's only important that they were. Additional research will no doubt offer more evidence one way or another.
The original July 2001 article can be read at:
- PubMed citation: Reversal of established autoimmune diabetes by restoration of endogenous beta cell function (J Clin Invest. 2001 Jul;108(1):63-72)
- Full text in HTML
- Full text in PDF
The November 2003 article can be read at:
- PubMed citation: Islet regeneration during the reversal of autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice (Science. 2003 Nov 14;302(5648):1223-7)
- Full text in PDF (free registration required)
More information about Dr. Faustman's work can be found at the Faustman Lab - News & Updates website and Immunobiology Laboratory Type 1 Diabetes Research at Mass General Hospital. You can also read her online biography. This research is being funded partially by the Iacocca Foundation.
For More Information
- Proof-of-Concept, Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial of Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin for Treatment of Long-Term Type 1 Diabetes. Free full text available in HTML format with link to PDF.
- TNF, BCG, and You and Me: An In-Depth Look at the Faustman Lab Research.
- An In-Depth Look at the Faustman Lab Research – Part 2.
- Human trials to begin on 'diabetes cure' after terminally ill mice are returned to health.
- Type 1 Diabetes: A Cure in Sight? describes the research underway at Massachusetts General Hospital based on work by Dr. Denise Faustman.
- Reversal of established autoimmune diabetes by restoration of endogenous beta cell function (free full text available as HTML and PDF)
- Islet regeneration during the reversal of autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice
- Role of defective apoptosis in type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.
- Diabetes Studies Conflict on Power of Spleen Cells (free registration required)
- The 24 March 2006 issue of Science contained three reports on studies that sought to replicate the work of Denise Faustman:
- For additional news reports on these studies and the work of Denise Faustman, see:
- Listen to an interview of Dr. Denise Faustman and Dr. David Nathan, professor of medicine; Harvard Medical School; director, General Clinical Research Center, director, Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, from NPR, recorded on Friday, March 24, 2006.
- Information About the Latest Research Findings on Type 1 Diabetes Published in the Journal Science. See also Infused Spleen Cells Found Not to Impact Islet Recovery and Reversal of Type 1 Diabetes in Mice and Diabetes Studies Conflict on Power of Spleen Cells.
- Dr. Denise Faustman was a guest on the August 29, 2008 edition of NPR's Science Friday. Click on the audio link on the left of the page to listen to the segment.
Last updated June 14, 2015
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