- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

NORFOLK A substance that has cured diabetes in some laboratory animals is being tested on people.
Initial clinical trials of the INGAP for islets neogenesis associated protein peptide began early this month at three sites in the United States.
INGAP encourages the growth of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The body needs insulin to process sugar, and diabetes results from the inability to make or use insulin.
An estimated 16 million Americans, and 130 million people worldwide, have diabetes. The disease requires patients to prick their fingers to check blood sugar levels several times a day and inject themselves with insulin or wear an abdominal insulin pump.
Diabetes also can cause nerve damage, blindness and kidney and heart failure, and it can be fatal.
While the ultimate goal is to cure diabetes, INGAP has the potential to at least help diabetics manage their illness better, said Dr. Aaron I. Vinik, director of research at the Strelitz Diabetes Institutes at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
"I can change people's lives a huge amount if they don't have to take insulin anymore if they don't have to stick themselves seven to 10 times a day" to test their blood sugar level, Dr. Vinik said.
The peptide derives from discoveries made by Dr. Vinik, professor of medicine, pathology and neurobiology at EVMS, and Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, professor of surgery and medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Drs. Vinik and Rosenberg found that injecting INGAP in certain species of diabetic animals increased insulin levels and lowered glucose levels. Some animals were cured 39 days after they began the therapy, Dr. Vinik said.
INGAP is a gene that encodes proteins that have the potential to produce cells capable of making the hormones necessary for keeping people's blood sugar levels normal, which reverses the diabetes process, Dr. Vinik said. INGAP gets directly at the "biological ineptitude" of the pancreas while other drugs treat the symptoms and complications of diabetes, he said.
Drs. Vinik and Rosenberg later identified the smaller, active portion of the INGAP protein, which was isolated and termed the INGAP peptide. It can be synthesized in a test tube, Dr. Vinik said.
In July, the researchers applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to test the peptide on people. Approval was granted in September.
The study will assess the safety and tolerability of injections of various daily dosages of INGAP peptide in 62 people.
Participants must be insulin-dependent diabetics between 18 and 65 who are relatively healthy.

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