I wrote an article about a year ago on how marijuana helps those suffering from diabetes and more recently how it helps those suffering from multiple sclerosis. It turns out there is a connection.
In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.Which is amazing. Now what is the connection to MS?
Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.
Dr. Dosch had concluded in a 1999 paper that there were surprising similarities between diabetes and multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease. His interest was also piqued by the presence around the insulin-producing islets of an "enormous" number of nerves, pain neurons primarily used to signal the brain that tissue has been damaged.So the doctor noted a similarity. Which may explain why both MS sufferers and people with Type 1 diabetes report that marijuana helps.
Suspecting a link between the nerves and diabetes, he and Dr. Salter used an old experimental trick -- injecting capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot chili peppers, to kill the pancreatic sensory nerves in mice that had an equivalent of Type 1 diabetes.
"Then we had the biggest shock of our lives," Dr. Dosch said. Almost immediately, the islets began producing insulin normally "It was a shock ? really out of left field, because nothing in the literature was saying anything about this."
It turns out the nerves secrete neuropeptides that are instrumental in the proper functioning of the islets. Further study by the team, which also involved the University of Calgary and the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, found that the nerves in diabetic mice were releasing too little of the neuropeptides, resulting in a "vicious cycle" of stress on the islets.
They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar.This is great news for the very near future if the research pans out. In the mean time for those of you waiting for new treatments to come on the market, I'll give you some adivice I was given a long time ago in the military while we were taking a break, "Smoke 'em if you got 'em." It just might help.
While pain scientists have been receptive to the research, immunologists have voiced skepticism at the idea of the nervous system playing such a major role in the disease. Editors of Cell put the Toronto researchers through vigorous review to prove the validity of their conclusions, though an editorial in the publication gives a positive review of the work.
"It will no doubt cause a great deal of consternation," said Dr. Salter about his paper.
The researchers are now setting out to confirm that the connection between sensory nerves and diabetes holds true in humans. If it does, they will see if their treatments have the same effects on people as they did on mice.
Amy at Diabetes Mine has more. Especially read the comments.
H/T Kesher Talk
Update: 21 Dec'06 0327z
More details on the research.