Are obesity, diabetes and other diseases treatable using gene-therapy skin grafts?

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When normal and gene-altered mice ate the high-fat diet -- along with varying levels of doxycycline to induce GLP1 release -- mice expressing GLP1 (left) gained less weight gain while normal mice (right) grew fat. Credit: Wu Laboratory, the University of Chicago

A research team based at the University of Chicago has overcome challenges that have limited gene therapy and demonstrated how their novel approach with skin transplantation could enable a wide range of gene-based therapies to treat many human diseases.

This study, “Engineered epidermal progenitor cells can correct diet-induced obesity and diabetes,” is the first to show that an engineered skin graft can survive long term in wild-type mice with intact immune systems.

They focused on diabetes because it is a common non-skin disease that can be treated by the strategic delivery of specific proteins.

The researchers inserted the gene for glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1), a hormone that stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin. This extra insulin removes excessive glucose from the bloodstream, preventing the complications of diabetes.

They grafted this lab-grown gene-altered skin onto mice with intact immune systems. There was no significant rejection of the transplanted skin grafts. […] This promptly increased blood-insulin levels and reduced blood-glucose levels.

“Together, our data strongly suggest that cutaneous gene therapy with inducible expression of GLP1 can be used for the treatment and prevention of diet-induced obesity and pathologies,” the authors wrote.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Gene therapy via skin could treat many diseases, even obesity