Plant Therapy for Diabetes Patients
Two scientists have different ideas on how to attack diabetes, which affects almost 24 million Americans. But one thing they have in common is that they have used fruits and veggies to develop medications and food additives to combat it.
University of Central Florida professor Henry Daniell has discovered a way to use genetically engineered lettuce to make the body produce its own insulin.
Those with type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes, need daily insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels. But the injections are only a temporary fix because the body still does not make its own insulin.
University of Central Florida professor Henry Daniell has come up with a way to train the body’s immune system to make its own insulin using genetically engineered lettuce that includes the insulin gene. Instead of injections, which deliver insulin to the bloodstream, Daniell uses the freeze-dried lettuce in powder or capsule form. The lettuce cells protect the insulin as it goes through the digestive system. Once in the intestines, the lettuce cells break down, and the remaining insulin triggers an immune response that results in the body making its own insulin cells.
Diabetic mice treated with Daniell’s therapy showed normal blood and urine sugar levels after eight weeks. “These animals pretty much got cured,” he says.
Daniell’s research has been supported by a $2-million National Institutes of Health grant and limited funding from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. But Daniell hasn’t been able to raise the $20 million needed for the next step, phase 1 human trials. “We need to find a partner,” he says, adding that a pharmaceutical company, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or the American Diabetes Research Foundation would be ideal.
Next page: Fruit-based approach to controlling blood sugar.