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