Dr. Massimo Trucco, chief of the division of immunogenics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said the issue of autoimmunity is an important one. But, of greater concern to him is that while this therapy worked in very controlled conditions -- the dogs' diets and exercise sessions were controlled -- in real-life conditions, this therapy might not work as well.
"Dogs get the food you want them to have. They probably spent most of their time in a cage. But, kids eat what they want and play when they want, meaning their [blood sugar level] varies dramatically. If you inject this therapy into the muscles, the muscle cells don't have the same apparatus to control the insulin levels that beta cells do. This would release insulin too well to give good control, and could cause [low blood sugar levels] when it does release," he said.
Trucco said he doesn't believe this therapy could translate to humans.
"Human beings are not clones of dogs. Beta cells are more complicated than muscle cells. Muscles just can't secrete insulin quickly and efficiently like beta cells do," he said.
But, he added that this was a very well-done gene therapy study that showed that the particular form of gene therapy used in this research appears to be safe for long-term use.
Learn more about gene therapy from the Human Genome Project.
SOURCES: Massimo Trucco, M.D., chief, division of immunogenics, and professor, pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; Camillo Ricordi, M.D., director, Diabetes Research Institute and the cell transplant center, University of Miami; Fatima Bosch, director, Center of Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain; Feb. 7, 2013, Diabetes, online
All rights reserved