A new gene therapy that uses the liver to release insulin has shown promise in laboratory trials, according to a report in Nature.
The therapy, developed in Korea and Canada, uses a genetically modified virus that incorporates its genome only into liver cells. It has been successfully tested in laboratory rats.
The genetically altered livers deliver an insulin analogue, which has up to 40 per cent of the activity of native insulin, the researchers reported.
The trials, conducted by Ji-Won Yoon and colleagues, at Yonsei University, Seoul, and the University of Calgary, Canada, showed that the rats' genetically altered livers enabled them to maintain normal blood glucose levels throughout the 8 months of the study.
Writing in the same journal, Jerrold Olefsky, of the University of California, San Diego, USA, said, "This paper represents a definite step forwards, and offers a good example of how fundamental research can be applied to problems of human health."
But he warned that the findings might not be readily applicable to human patients, since rats had a much higher level of basal glucose production in their livers than did humans.
"So small effects of insulin on the liver may be able to control post-eating glucose levels in rodents, but may be less effective in humans", he wrote.
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