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Guardian predicts end to insulin shots based on rehashed news release, mouse research

Rating

2 Star

Categories

Type 1 diabetes treatment could end need for insulin shots

Our Review Summary

pancreasThis news story is about a new technology being developed in the UK that will grow pancreatic islet cells in a lab, as a possible treatment for type 1 diabetes patients.

There is news here: A consortium of non-profit, university, government funding and private investment is moving forward to bring hope to potentially tens of thousands of people with Type 1 diabetes.

But the story itself is problematic on several levels–it appears to be little more than a rehash of the news release, making a passing mention to successful “pre-clinical results” but offering no specifics. There is no discussion of the realities: Islet transplants are costly, carry adverse effects, can fail, and are complex to manage. How will this therapy differ? We’re not told.

 

Why This Matters

Type I diabetes, which starts in childhood, is life shortening, life threatening and notoriously difficult to manage and control. A novel technology that could directly provide huge numbers of lab-grown islets–which make insulin–does hold promise for helping Type 1 diabetics, though much, much more research is needed before we’ll know if this is the case.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Since the premise of the piece is about pre-clinical efforts, it’s too early to discuss specific costs, so we’ll rate this N/A. However, the article could have been enhanced by noting the cost of other cell-based therapies, islet cell transplants, insulin treatment and the amount of investment being sought.

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

Not Satisfactory

The article refers to preclinical “results,” but gives no data or explanation of what those results involve, much less any quantified benefits. From what we could find, this was based on research using mice—a level of evidence hardly worthy of the headline “Type 1 diabetes treatment could end need for insulin shots.”

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

Not Satisfactory

The article mentions a few times the benefits of being freed from insulin injections, but offers no information on the potential harms of any therapy, including the one being proposed here, which would be invasive. Current islet transplant treatments contain a number of risks.

There also should be some discussion about what percentage of transplanted patients would see benefit. The article makes it seem as if all of them would be free from using insulin.

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

Not Satisfactory

There is a claim of benefit (which seems intended to attract investors) yet there is no way to determine the quality of evidence to support that claim. After checking other news stories on the same topic, we found a link to this study, which is mouse-level research.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The article does not disease monger; it notes the British and global future prevalence of type 1 diabetes. And it does a good job of distinguishing the disorder from type 2 diabetes.

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

Not Satisfactory

Every source in this story was also quoted in the news release.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The article mentions current treatment with islet cell transplants as well as insulin shots, and that’s enough to merit a Satisfactory rating. However, it doesn’t mention newer efforts to control type 1 with automatically programmed blood glucose monitor/insulin pumps and other means.

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

Not Satisfactory

There are vague mentions of the need for clinical trials and reference to a “few years” before treatment with the lab grown islets are available, but readers will not come away with a reasonable sense of what needs to happen before a treatment based on this approach would become available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article makes it clear that the novelty would be how many more patients could, in theory, receive the treatment if this idea works once in clinical trials.

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

Not Satisfactory

The news story uses direct passages from the news release, without citing the release.

For example, this quote was in both the story and the news release:

“Donated islets are already effectively treating severe cases of type 1 diabetes. Having a hugely expanded supply of lab-grown islets will enable us to significantly extend this established clinical treatment.”

As well as this one:

“Islet transplantation can transform the lives of patients with type I diabetes, and in some cases can result in long term freedom from insulin injections with excellent glucose control.”

 

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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