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A cure for diabetes?


1 Star

A cure for diabetes?

Our Review Summary

This is a very confusing piece that does not paint a cohesive story about the specific research being discussed (12 monkeys injected with pig islet cells for 6 months). There is no information about the type of diabetes for which the treatment might be of benefit (Type I or insulin-dependent diabetes). The only mention of the research stimulating the report is that researchers have achieved reversal of diabetes in monkeys using pig islet transplants. There is no attempt to explain what reversing diabetes in monkeys using pig cells means; what it may mean in terms of treatment for people with insulin dependent diabetes (other than using the terms “cure” and “breakthrough” in the lead); or how such treatment would compare to those currently available.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No estimate of costs is provided.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Experimental treatment in animals is cast as a possible diabetes cure. This is an optimistic interpretation of a study in 12 monkeys for only 6 months.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No potential harms discussed. The story didn’t mention that some of the monkeys rejected the pig islet cells.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

No information is provided about the experiments other than that there are some monkeys that have experienced reversal of their diabetes after transplantation of pig islet cells.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

This piece provides no background information on diabetes. No mention of prevalence or incidence. But it does frame the discussion around “millions of diabetics” when it says there aren’t enough donor organs. But even the University’s news release framed this only in terms of “the tens of thousands of people with difficult-to-manage diabetes.” Not millions.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The investigator who just authored a journal article is interviewed but the story included no input from any other experts in the area of xenotranplantation or diabetes.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There is only brief mention of insulin injections and of human islet cell transplants. But the story doesn’t mention other options for insulin-independent diabetes, including pancreas transplant, inhaled insulin, drugs to control blood sugar, and lifestyle changes.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The last line mentions that this experiment might be ready for human trials in 3 years. The story doesn’t mention, though, that the FDA has not approved the use of pig islet cells to treat diabetes. There is also no basis given for the estimate of 3 years. As we know, the statement could just as accurately be made, “The experiment may not be ready for human trials within 3 years.”

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


A time frame of three years is reported as an estimate for when this experiment might first be tested in people. However no basis was given for that projection, other than the investigator’s own prediction.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied solely on a news release.

Total Score: 1 of 9 Satisfactory


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