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Looking beyond insulin

Work in rodents suggests new hormone targets for treating type 1 diabetes

A little extra leptin can bring terminally ill rodents with type 1 diabetes back from the brink of death.

Leptin, a hormone made by fat cells, helps control eating behavior. A new gene therapy study suggests that it can also treat diabetes, the first demonstration that the disease can be treated without replacing insulin.

Roger Unger and colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas used adenovirus to insert extra copies of the leptin gene in diabetic mice and rats. The rodents recovered from the most severe side effects of diabetes, even though the mice do not make insulin and weren’t given insulin, the researchers report in an early online publication August 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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