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Growing Insulin

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the hormones-growing dept.

251

McLuhanesque writes "The Globe and Mail reports that a Calgary biotech firm has developed a process to turn genetically modified safflower oil into human insulin in commercial quantities. The process reduces capital costs by 70% and product cost by 40%. 'SemBioSys says it can make more than one kilogram of human insulin per acre of safflower production. That amount could treat 2,500 diabetic patients for one year and, in turn, meet the world's total projected insulin demand in 2010 with less than 16,000 acres of safflower production.'"

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251 comments

*Cough* (1)

TechGranny (987537) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747668)

Now I am freaking out about the plant matter...

Re:*Cough* (2, Funny)

rs79 (71822) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747737)

The real problem with this stuff is people that have been given it track the sun all day.

This isnt a breakthrough, it's genetic engineering (0, Flamebait)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748010)

Why do we need bio-technology, when we already HAVE plant insulin. Unless you can consume the seeds by mouth, I don't see how this is a useful advance. Human insulin from plants means if you plant the seed it will be part human, that freaks me the hell out, how about you?

At the same time, I understand the wisdom in creating hybrids, but lets please not mix plants and animals, it's obviously not right.

If our goal is to mix human genes as an experiment, lets use primates, lets create a bigfoot in a lab, lets mix human genes in dogs, or cats even, but why the hell in a plant? I'd love to be able to talk to my dog or cat, but why a plant?

Obviously? (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748020)

No, it's not. If it's not right, then by one system of logic, humans and animals shouldn't eat plants, humans shouldn't grow plants as food, and plants shouldn't be used as decoration.

How exactly is it in any way obvious?

Try having sex with a plant. (0, Flamebait)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748029)

I think anyone can see, that humans and plants arent designed to be matched up. Sure you can genetically engineer it, you can do anything, but why pick a plant? It's a useless function. Tell me the real reason anyone would choose a plant even for a genetic experiment? Why do we want to pollute the ecosphere? We cannot get another ecosphere, and while I know some experiments are important, why sunflower seeds ,and why human genes in sunflower seeds? We could be making food more nutritious and healthy, but instead we are working on putting human insulin in it, I think you can see why this seems a bit odd. In fact I cannot see how it can be a positive experiment in any way for anyone.

Re:This isnt a breakthrough, it's genetic engineer (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748122)


but lets please not mix plants and animals, it's obviously not right.


There's no such thing as a "plant gene" or an "animal gene". It's like saying that taking a spring from a car and putting it in a bicycle makes the bicycle somehow car-like. Sure, if you took an entire engine along with a transmission and fastened it onto a bike that might make the bicycle "car-like", but that's not what we're talking about here. Genes are just building blocks, and assigning plantness or animalness to them doesn't make any sense.

You are wrong (0, Flamebait)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748136)

Each human does not have exactly the same genes, each animal does not have exactly the same genes, and the genes in a plant are VASTLY VASTLY different from the genes in a human. A plant grows from the damn ground and eats sunlight, tell me how the hell you can believe a human shares genes with a plant. Even if humans share a few genes with a plant, we don't share insulin genes with plants, we don't share brain and heart genes with plants, these genes are so specific to humans that plants can't use human insulin, well I guess now they can.

Re:You are wrong (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748181)


and the genes in a plant are VASTLY VASTLY different from the genes in a human.

Some of them are, some of them aren't. We still share MANY of the same genes with plants. Just like a car is vastly different from a bicycle, both have rubber tires. In a very similar sense both cars and bicycles share a common "ancestor", just like plants and humans.

tell me how the hell you can believe a human shares genes with a plant

Evolution? You don't have to simply believe it, it's a scientifically proven fact that humans and plants share genes.

we don't share brain and heart genes with plants

I'm pretty sure there's no single gene that responsible for producing the heart or brain. Something this complex required many many genes.

Re:This isnt a breakthrough, it's genetic engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15748180)

Human insulin from plants means if you plant the seed it will be part human, that freaks me the hell out, how about you?

Yeah, and the genomes of mice and mankind are about 40% the same. You're 40% rat, buddy, does that also freak you out?

That's great and all, but... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747669)

As a type 1, insulin dependent, diabetic, I really don't care. I want a cure. I don't want more externally produced insulin, I want to make it myself again.

Re:That's great and all, but... (4, Insightful)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747728)

I understand that a cure is viewed as better than a treatment, but you can't just pick to find a cure, or pick to find a treatment. Reducing the costs of producing human insulin, and at the same time gaining additional scientific knowledge should be of great use. Who knows, perhaps a cure to type I diabetes is now one step closer?

Re:That's great and all, but... (2, Insightful)

Fjornir (516960) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747754)

No, the cure is now several steps further out. As long as insulin prices would remain high then a cheap-to-produce cure would have an extremely strong market position. With a dramatic cut in the cost of insulin a cure that cost the same amount to produce is less interesting to pursue.

Re:That's great and all, but... (1)

TenLow (812875) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747852)

No, as long as you have to buy their insulin, there wont be a cure. The money is in making you just well enough to live with it. Drug companies wouldnt be a good investment if you only had to buy drugs to get cured of your ailment.

So start a non-profit (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748061)

It's not like all medicine has to be done in the for profit drug industry. Set up a non profit, donate money, hire your scientists personally, and cure insulin resistance.

Actually there are vitamins which work right now, the problem is, the drug companies do not like the supplement companies. Ultimately however, insulin production and diabetes may already be cured as we speak, the problem is, even if it is cured, none of us have access to the treatment. It is possible to regenerate beta cells. It is also possible to make insulin more efficient. The body is controlled easily, and the cure for diabetes could be introduced via a virus as a genetic medicine. The cure exists, it's out there, and it's most likely going to remain surpressed because you are right, cures arent only less profitable, but drug companies have more control over you in general if you need certain drugs than if you are drug free. You just have to cure it yourself, or figure out how, and if you do find a cure or a doctor or scientist who can cure it, it's most likely going to be a black market affair.

Re:That's great and all, but... (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747858)

With a dramatic cut in the cost of insulin a cure that cost the same amount to produce is less interesting to pursue.

What utter nonsense. Even if insulin was cheaper than air, who in the world would lose interest in not having to monitor his blood sugar and take injections, risk blindness, amputation, and all other hazards of diabetes?

-jcr

Re:That's great and all, but... (2, Insightful)

klep (26544) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747964)

The insurance companies, of course... It's them that are running the show here in the US.
My out of pocket costs are probably 4x or 5x of what I used to pay '98. In fact, I'm using cheaper insulin now, because I'm not using insulin pens anymore.

After all, do you really think that the out of pockets costs will drop because the supply of insulin has gotten much cheaper?

- YAIDP (Yet Another Insulin Dependent Person).

Re:That's great and all, but... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748157)


I understand that a cure is viewed as better than a treatment, but you can't just pick to find a cure, or pick to find a treatment.

To some degree what you're saying is true. But that doesn't mean that there aren't directions that are far more likely to lead to a cure, and other directions that are far more likely to lead to better treatments. I think it's pretty obvious that research on producing insulin cheaper is far more likely to produce a better treatment, and pretty unlikely to lead to a cure.

Who knows.. maybe the science needed to put people on Mars will lead to a cure for diabetes. It's just pretty unlikely to do so. The applications and directions that science leads isn't always clear, but that doesn't mean it's blind.

George Bush is Workin' Hard For You (1, Insightful)

MannyGoldstein (940102) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747842)

Oh, you want to be cured?

Well, by banning the public funding of stem cell research today, George Bush has helped you towards the cure! His great deeds are hastening the Rapture, when the good people (those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord) will be cured.

Got it?

Good.

Re:George Bush is Workin' Hard For You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747965)

Indeed, the trumpet will sound and the seventh seal will open. Then the sky will turn red and the ocean turn as sack as blackcloth, and all will know that Christ is King.

Stem Cell research will not cure you (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748073)

People who think Stem Cell research will cure anything, maybe in 50-100 years if theres an earth left. Stem Cell research is important, because it's important to study the human body, but don't expect a miracle cure from stem cel research, it's at the same level that AI is at in terms of quality.

Yes I think we should be spending a fortune on it, yes I do think it will solve most of our problems and cure most of our diseases in the long term. The problem we face is lasting long enough as a species to research stem cells, so while I respect the stem cell point of view, we must take into account that technology for the sake of technology does nothing to change the future, and seriously, curing diseases is the furthest thing from most peoples minds right now. Stem Cell research is important, but curing diabetes? I wish.

Re:That's great and all, but... (1)

kahrytan (913147) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747844)

We do have a cure [nih.gov] fror diabetes. It's called a pancreas & kidney transplant. [nih.gov]

Re:That's great and all, but... (1)

jrp2 (458093) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747975)

"We do have a cure fror diabetes. It's called a pancreas & kidney transplant."

I assume you were just kidding (organ transplants are very risky business), but in all seriousness, I don't see how this would work.

Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease. The immune system thinks the Pancreas' beta cells (the part of the pancreas that produce insulin) are evil and it destroys them. Not sure why they think the same won't happen to the new pancreas and it's beta cells destroyed.

I am definitely not a doctor, so maybe I am missing something.

Re:That's great and all, but... (1)

Filip22012005 (852281) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748173)

What you are missing is that you need to take immunosuppressants all your life for not rejecting the new pancreas. As a result, the probability of your immune system attacking these cells is small. But instead of injecting insulin, you are now taking immunosuppressants.

Re:That's great and all, but... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747846)

You'll get your cure to diabeties around the same time I get my cure for colour blindness.

Re:That's great and all, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747910)

color blind people unite! im sick of being turned away from the awesome jobs because of colorblindness

Re:That's great and all, but... (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748016)

like dying in wars. (for those who don't know, most colour blind people are exempt from serving in the military.. even though we can see people in camouflage better than anyone else).

Re:That's great and all, but... (1)

holden caufield (111364) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747954)

You know what, as someone with diabetes in his family, I'm looking more towards closer and more reasonable steps, such as pairing a continuous (and implantable) blood sugar monitor combined with an insulin pump...i.e. an artificial pancreas than curing diabetes.

*Then* we can complain about getting people off insulin, and re-growing pancreatic cells from stem cells, and a whole bunch of other things that will cure this disease.

Re:That's great and all, but... (2, Informative)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747985)

My father is self employeed (to note, anyone that talks of govt assistance go check what assitance you can get as a business owner - you know: they are all rich and can afford anything) and has to get his own insurance. As a diabetic that has had bypass surgery that is not easy - what he can get pays for no medicine at all. It will only pay for in patient surgery.

His monthly insulin bill is around 600 dollars a month (total medication is ~1500, insurance is another ~900). While I'm sure that he would also like to have his diabetes cured, I think he would care quite a bit if this went down in price like this sounds like it should.

Maybe you don't care, maybe your insurance covers the expense or you don't need that much. But for a few million people this will really benefit them and make thier lives much easier. Personally I'm pretty happy that some people out there can look to more than simply what affects them (or thier wants only) and not go for the Cure or nothing approach.

Re:That's great and all, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15748057)

Regardless if the manufacturing process gets cheaper. The drug companis will never sell it to you for a different price than you are already paying. The only one that wins in this are the corporations as their profit margin just shot through the ceiling.

This has nothing to do with diabetes. (-1, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748043)

This has everything to do with mixing human and plant genetics. Why on earth would we want to do that, and mix it into the seeds? This is an example of ecosphere pollution, and when we run out of food because all the seeds are genetically fucked up, well, who knows what the result will be. Also what happens if these new human/plants evolve intelligence? Remember killer bees, the aggressive bees?

This is serious, why pick plants? Why don't we put human genes in our pets at least so we can monitor the experiment, Dogs and Cats would be fine for genetic experiments, because we don't eat them, they are domesticated, and we already treat them in a slave like fashion a lot of the time. No, instead we choose to enslave and domesticate the plant species next, and pollute the species genetically, who knows what the side effects of this are long term. Will it alter the evolution of plants? Possible. Will it cause plants to take over the earth in 1000 years? It's possible. I understand the reason why it makes sense to put human genes in animals and other mammals, but mixing humans and plants can have all sorts of long term side effects we cannot predict right now. Plant insulin already exists, so why do we need plants to generate animal insulin, and what exactly do we need it in the seed for?

So, GM foods are evil?.. (1)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748094)

Why on earth would we want to do that, and mix it into the seeds? This is an example of ecosphere pollution, and when we run out of food because all the seeds are genetically fucked up, well, who knows what the result will be.

Your opposition to genetically modified foods is about as rational, as George Bush's infamouse dislike for using stem-cells derived from embrios in research.

I'm for genetic modification, but lets be rational (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748144)

What purpose does genetically modified "food" serve? You seem to think no ethics at all apply to food, but I'm not about to support more dangerous food. Food is dangerous enough. It's got nothing to do with Bush and stem cell research, research is just fine, we are talking about the eco-system here when we discuss food, every human must eat, and not all humans, and not all animals, want to eat scientifically manipulated food. It should be our choice.

A top ten lists for all the diabetics out there (-1, Offtopic)

Frogbert (589961) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747673)

The Top 10 Signs Your Glucose Meter Sucks:

10. the results are displayed in roman numerals

9. it's bigger than a laptop computer

8. it requires a pint of blood to get a single reading

7. runs on a battery...a car battery

6. was designed and assembled by Thomas Edison

5. the brand name is "Numerous Touch Ultra Dumb"

4. test strips cost $500 a piece...$499 at Walmart

3. results take so long you get your FBG just in time to go to bed

2. the control solution that came with it is real blood

And the #1 Sign Your Glucose Meter Sucks:

1. you try to download the data and it takes you to a porn site!

could someone do back-of-envelope calculation (4, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747676)

on how many diabetics are *produced* from an acre of sugar cane or corn used to make corn syrup. Just so we can see if it all balances out.....

Re:could someone do back-of-envelope calculation (2, Insightful)

TechDogg (802999) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747724)

Yeah, maybe there could be less sugar produced in the world and perhaps, this could make the consumption drop. But in my opinion, that's not what's making people become diabetic.

What's making them become diabetic is:
  • poor nutrition habits
  • poor exercice habits
  • more importantly, the FACT that everything has suger in it.


Seriously, if you start checking the ingredients in the food you buy, you'll notice that everything has sugar in it. Even things that should not. This article [www.cbc.ca] sums it up nicely.

Genetically engineered sugar. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748115)

Just because everything has sugar in it, doesnt mean it's always the same sugar. We went from cane sugar, to beet sugar, to corn syrup, to high fructose corn syrup, and eventually genetically modified high fructose corn syrup, so in theory it might not even be corn syrup anymore.

Genetically engineered food, is it safe? I wouldnt be surprised if it caused diabetes. My advice, don't eat so much corn. If you must deal with corn, use ethanol.

Re:could someone do back-of-envelope calculation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747802)

Just wanted to point out that sugar (or too much sugar that is) is a contributing factor for the less serious Type II Diabetes, but the more serious Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes is not caused by too much sugar, and some may take offense at the suggestion that they brought such a terrible disease upon themselves, especially when many develop the disease as young children.

Re:could someone do back-of-envelope calculation (5, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747808)

For the case of Type I insulin-dependent diabetics which are the primary group this technology advance would benefit: None

There are two main types of diabetes (with a couple of oddball variants that are rare, diabetes mellitus describes the final symptom of elevated bloodsugar, there are a few possible root causes of that symptom, which determine the type). Type I is known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes (because it is rarely diagnosed past the age of 20). It is caused by the immune system attacking the beta cells of the pancreas. Eventually all beta cells die and the body can no longer produce any insulin, so it must be provided from an external source. Type I is generally considered to be the "severe" form of diabetes because of this fact. Prior to the discovery of insulin, average life expectancy after diagnosis was 1-2 years, and the disease killed younger children faster than teenagers. Oh, it was a rather slow, painful, and unpleasant death too. Essentially no matter how much you ate and drank, your body would slowly dehydrate and starve.

Type II is usually referred to simply as adult-onset diabetes, because until recently, it has been unheard of for young people to develop it. (A high prevalence of childhood obesity is changing this). In Type II diabetes, the body does produce insulin, but for various reasons it is not enough, whether it is due to reduced capacity or increased demands beyond normal capacity, or a combination of both. Most of the time, once diagnosed, Type II diabetes can be managed solely with oral medication which increases the body's sensitivity to the insulin it does produce, and in many cases controlled solely with diet and exercise. (Losing weight can often cause Type II diabetes to disappear.) It is extremely rare for Type II to require external insulin rejections. Interestingly enough, while Type II is less "severe", this very fact makes it far more dangerous because it frequently goes undiagnosed for long periods of time, and the elevated bloodsugars do damage to various parts of the body.

This is definately an interesting development, but how will this company deal with patented "designer" insulins such as Lantus (from Aventis Pharmaceutical, a special "peakless" insulin used to provide a long-acting baseline insulin dose), and Novolog/Humalog, two "extremely rapid acting" insulins that actually take effect FASTER than injecting normal human insulin. FYI, "human insulin" is insulin produced by genetically engineered bacteria that is identical to human insulin, it is NOT extracted from humans, unlike pork and beef insulins which were extracted from the pancreases of pigs and cows respectively. While I'm sure their technology will work with Lantus and Humalog/Novolog, I don't know how the companies that produce the above three will react to this. Most likely they'll license the technology from this new company (if it works) or vice versa... I hope so.

Mod parent up (1, Informative)

lbrandy (923907) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747841)

Too much ignorance in this thread. Diabetes is one of the most misunderstood diseases in existence.

Re:could someone do back-of-envelope calculation (2, Interesting)

boingo82 (932244) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747958)

Type II is usually referred to simply as adult-onset diabetes, because until recently, it has been unheard of for young people to develop it. (A high prevalence of childhood obesity is changing this).
This "childhood obesity" could very well be affected by the high consumption of HFCS-sweetened sodas and food products, right?
Just TRY finding a soda that doesn't contain it in the US - the only ones I've found are the Italian fruit sodas at Target. And I've found only one brand of bread that's baked sans HFCS - and it's $3/loaf.

You are correct that the diabetes cases which are caused or exacerbated by HFCS are not the same insulin-dependent cases. That doesn't make me hate the corn lobby any less.

unbelievable isn't it? (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747879)

I had to start watching my sugar last month after my yearly blood work showed elevated blood sugar. Funny......it use to only take me 15-20 minutes to buy groceries.......did anyone know they have these neat things on products called nutrition labels? LOL..... Seriously.....since I started reading the labels for sugar content, it amazes me how many products have HFCS (high frutose corn sweetner). It doesn't matter what you eat anymore, almost everything has HFCS. Heck, I even heard that some fast food places put sugar in the french fries when they cook them. No wonder everyone is getting screwed up. Too much sugar. I've cut out all white bread of any kind, sugar soft drinks, chips, pasta, rice just about anything you can think of that has sugar. Once a week a bunch of buddies of mine get together at a pizza place for lunch, I only take a couple slices of pizza, and even that I scrap the good stuff off, eat it and leave the crust......

Re:unbelievable isn't it? (1)

jrp2 (458093) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748104)

Sounds like you are on a good path, I wish you the best.

A couple quick pieces of advice for you:

- Read up on the Glycemic Index [amazon.com]. It will give you a much more comprehensive understanding of your diet and how different foods will affect you. Note, it is not just sugar, it is most carbs. On that note, once you figure it out, you can open up your diet while still maintaining your glucose levels.

- Exercise is almost as important as your diet. In many ways, more important. 30-60 minutes of fast walking or medium biking 5-7 days a week will do miraculous things to your glucose levels, overall health, and maybe even save a little gas.

- If you cheat, get some exercise immediately afterwards. Even just walking home from the restaurant is a great practice that will help keep your glucose levels from spiking.

- Avoid going too low on your carbs, especially before being active or drinking alcohol. Hypoglycemia (too low) is very common with low carb diets (especially in diabetics for some reason). It is scary, and can kill you (either directly, or by passing out while driving, etc.). Always have some carbs in your breakfast and lunch (and dinner if you are drinking).

Exactly (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748120)

And did you know you've already most likely consumed genetically modified food as well? Did you know that not only does everything have high fructose corn syrup, but almost everything has dextrose, maltidextrin, corn syrup, and many other chemicals?

Let's just say the food is dirty. Consume it at your own risk, it's like with tabacco.

Wait till you try the genetically engineered corn (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748107)

Corn Syrup will be much much sweeter when we genetically engineer it. Just wait, it will be x1000 sweeter and more syrupy. Mmm Syrupy Syrup! We humans were designed like flies, it's in our genes.

Positively fantastic news (5, Insightful)

Spinn12 (989688) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747679)

As a nurse, with a specialization in diabetic care, I am always chomping at the bit for new technology with diabetes. It is sad that so many cases go untreated, ending in loss of limbs, eyesight and so much more. In the end, taxpayers get hit with the brunt of the bill, because the majority of those who do not treat their diabetes neglect to do so out of financial inability.

For there to be a light at the end of this proverbial tunnel is amazing news. Let's hope that this continues to be researched, tried and brought to the general population with as little convolusion from outside sources as possible.

Sadly, medicine is still business first and foremost. Some drug company will make a mint from this. Let's hope that someone somewhere has a conscience that won't allow them to make this treatment as financially restrictive as most everything else is.

Re:Positively fantastic news (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747703)

Even by the usual standards of economic illiteracy here, this is pretty dimwitted. It can only drive *down* the cost of insulin; a new route to making insulin can't possibly make it cost *more*.

Re:Positively fantastic news (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747784)

a new route to making insulin can't possibly make it cost *more*.

You mean in 16 years when the patent expires and anyone can do it, right?

Most likely they'll charge the exact same as everyone else (ie, at least as much as the insurance companies will pay) and not one cent less. (And people whine that the government distorts the market...)

Re:Positively fantastic news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747801)

It's a pity I don't have mod points. Someone please MOD PARENT UP.

Re:Positively fantastic news (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748060)

a new route to making insulin can't possibly make it cost *more*.

Unless of course it bypasses regulatory hurdles allowing drug manufacturers to drop the older, lower profit method and/or they collude to use the new method as an excuse to raise prices.

Re:Positively fantastic news (2, Informative)

jacobdp (698004) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747715)

This isn't treatment technology, it's production technology. All it will do is bring down prices. The real "light at the end of the tunnel" is the artificial pancreas, an insulin pump + CGMS. All the pieces are there; we just need a few more generations of CGMS tech and some good algorithms.

Re:Positively fantastic news (1)

Spinn12 (989688) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747739)

I agree wholeheartedly that it's production technology. I would love to believe that it can only result in bringing down prices. These are, of course, simple economic principles.

The skeptic in me sees so many promising developments that get pushed to the wayside. There are so many treatments and production changes that could have amazing impact, but they aren't fiscally responsible for the marketing companies, so they sit on a back burner until such a time comes as they are.

Tollerance Build up (5, Insightful)

kahanamoku (470295) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747680)

what they NEED to work on is the way the body builds a tollerance to the insulin. After 20 years of using it, my dosages are up sixfold. if they crack the nut that stops the body from building up a tollerance to the insulin over time, they wont need to worry about diminished stock levels!

Re:Tollerance Build up (4, Interesting)

Temkin (112574) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747712)


Take a look at the research being done on Retinol binding proteins. Apparently, there's some kind of relationship between RBP's and insulin resistance.

Temkin

Let me be the first.. (5, Funny)

Brickwall (985910) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747687)

As a type II, non-insulin dependent (yet) diabetic, I for one welcome our new safflower overlords.

Re:Let me be the first.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15748133)

We need a mod for +1 "Funny, yet breaks my heart"

Re:Let me be the first.. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748146)

As another Type II diabetic, I'd like to remind you that in Soviet Russia, safflower overlords welcomed diabetics!

kilograms and *acres*? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747695)

Uh, acres aren't metric.

1 acre = 4046.85642 m^2

Re:kilograms and *acres*? (1)

TheBig1 (966884) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748097)

True it's not metric, but here in Calgary Canada (where the research company is based), land is still measured in acres. The rural road system, created long before the switch to metric, is based on a mile grid, thus separating land into Sections (1 mile * 1 mile). Each Section is equal to a number of acres (640 acres / section, IIRC). From what I understand, this is the same as the system in the States...

E coli fermentation is also "growing" the insulin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747701)

Is fermentation that much more high tech than farming? You still have to get the purified insulin in a sterile delivery system. Will grinding up the plants be that much cheaper than the fermentation processes?

The article is scant on details (4, Interesting)

mbessey (304651) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747799)

Not much technical detail at all in the article, but from previous articles on splicing human genes into animals and plants, I gather that the real advantage of this technique is that, if it's done right, the plant or animal concentrates the product in one place for you (the seeds, in this case).

Compared to a big churning vat of E. Coli, their food, and their waste products, it's easier to use something like an impeller or centrifuge to separate out bulk quantities of insulin-laced oil from a plant, and then purify it from there.

Also, those same fermenters that are growing insulin currently are also a great breeding ground for other bacteria, molds, and yeasts in the environment. I'm given to understand that keeping unwanted organisms out of the vats is part of what makes the process difficult and expensive. A single bacterium or wild yeast spore that gets into a fermenter can ruin the whole batch.

The macroscopic plants are a much more robust system - they can still get sick of course, but it's fairly easy to keep plants healthy. And even given that you can't spray these plants willy-nilly with pesticides, organic farmers get pretty good yields on most products with just natural controls.

In other news... (3, Insightful)

woolio (927141) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747713)

Meet the world's insulin consumption in 2010?

In other news, pharmacutical companies are beginning to persuade food companies to put MORE SUGAR into foods....

Re:In other news... (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747805)

In other news, pharmacutical companies are beginning to persuade food companies to put MORE SUGAR into foods....
If only sugar caused diabetes.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747847)

It pretty much does cause type (2?) diabetes. SUGAR(refined) IS EVIL. There was an interesting CBC documentary called "big sugar", it aired in Canada, I recommend watching it. It has been estimated that without refined sugar in our diets, new onset cases of diabetes would be eliminated, not to mention obesity.

Interestingly, putting the billions of acres used to produce refined sugar to better use would impact health and availabilty of good foods. If only healthy food were profitable. Oh wait, now that we are all fat.. THEY ARE.

Sugar is poison, but it makes money for many economies. Money means lobbying.

Re:In other news... (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747956)

Obesity is not cause by sugar, refined sugar, carbs, fats, proteins, trans fats, saturated fats, aliens, terrorists, the secret society that controls the world, or the vast right/left wing conspiracy. It is caused by eating too much and exercising too little. The "Ooh, let's ban x ingredient" attitude is both unfounded and irresponsible.

Healthy food would always be profitable if people cared enough.

Interestingly, if people took responsibility and didn't buy unhealthy food, general health and availability of good foods would increase greatly.

Ignorance and irresponsibility are poison, but they get votes for politicians.

Obesity is caused by bad genes says Parent poster (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748127)

Yes obesity is caused by genes. So why don't we change the genetics to make it so people can't become insulin resistant? Why isnt the Corn Syrup industry paying to cure insulin resistance? It's good for their business if people can keep buying high fructose corn syrup, and people will buy less when they go diabetic, so whats your point? If you work for the corn syrup lobby it's in your best interest to cure diabetes so you can sell more corn syrup drinks to kids. Coke should be funding the cure for diabetes simply because it makes business sense, but they arent, just like big tabacco does not want to cure lung cancer.

Now if they could only... (4, Funny)

mbstone (457308) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747719)

...implant the insulin-producing gene into Cannabis sativa L., there would be a product. Can I have some ice cream?

Re:Now if they could only... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747735)

Mmm.. Cannibis....

Re:Now if they could only... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747818)

Troll? Flamebait? What the fuck is wrong with you uptight assholes?

Re:Now if they could only... (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748091)

It would be interesting to see in anyone ever forgot to take their medicine.

none (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747733)

Boy, am I getting sleepy

Sucks (2, Insightful)

POKETNRJSH (944872) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747738)

Wow that's great and all but another type 1 here...I don't care where the insulin is coming from if it's not coming from ME. This is like our gas problems, why work on getting more gas when we could be working on not needing it at all? I'd rather see work done on a cure than temporary relief.

Re:Sucks (1)

dmitrygr (736758) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747747)

But who will feed all those cpmpanies that make a living on making insulin now? If evetyone is cured where do they go? Anytime any progess on cure is made I assure you they will buy it off and make is dissaper...fast.

Re:Sucks (1)

POKETNRJSH (944872) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747856)

They could possibly invest in the cure, I'm sure that it's not something that's going to be free or anything. Besides, most of the major companies do a lot of other things besides diabetes.

Re:Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747895)

My kid is a type 1 also. The new CGMS's are helpful but, of course, mean more bucks for the manufacturers. Heck, I'd be willing to pay 10 times the amount we pay right now for ongoing care for a cure. Even though this freakin stuff is expensive, the long term complications are not exactly exciting. Hope your treatment is going well --- there'll be a cure within 20 years -- I swear! Keep raising the bucks for JDRF and hopefully a real cure will come out of it someday.

Re:Sucks (1)

jander (88775) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748024)

Both of my children have type 1, and while this might make the insulin a little cheaper, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the expense of an insulin pump, testing strips, infusion sets, etc.... However, as any parent would agree, the expense means nothing if it keeps our children healthy and happy.

Even though new technology to make managing IDDM easier is constantly coming out, it still doesn't come close to providing a true "cure".

<rant>
And to the idiot who mentioned pancreatic transplant as a "cure", do you realize that you're trading a lifelong dependence on insulin for a lifelong dependence on immunosuppresants to keep the body from rejecting the transplant? I thought not....
</rant>

Re:Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747930)

Not to trivialize your point, (I too used to have a condition medical science couldn't cure until about 5 years after I was diagnosed, and even then they literally nearly killed me) but who cares about the cure if people can't afford to keep themselves alive long enough for the cure to come in to existence? If this reduces the cost of treatment, then it means there's that many more patients that will live long enough to see a time that a cure exists.

Pharmaceutical companies are greedy assholes, yes. But a more affordable chance to stay alive is always an improvement, if only to give the patient a better chance to be around for the cure. Hang in there, because you can be sure nobody's stopping research in to a cure just because treatment of symptoms got cheaper/better.

Insulania (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747748)

This will help us end our dependence on foreign glucose modulators.

HFCS (3, Insightful)

Midnight Warrior (32619) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747764)

Bring on the High-Fructose Corn Syrup [newstarget.com]. Drink more Dew. Drink more Sprite. Obey your thirst. Feed your kids drinks with less than 100% fruit juice.

Tongue in cheak of course.

Almost reminds you of the idea people have with introducing insects into non-native environments and the bug turns out to be hostile so they introduce a second bug to kill the first, but which turns out to be worse than the first.

  1. Farmer thirsty in corn field.
  2. Farmer tired of water and lemonade. Sees future in vending machines.
  3. Develops early soft drink laced with party enhancers.
  4. People like the buzz, but sugar is about all they can stand.
  5. Full out sugar drinks get people hyper. Farmer gets bizarre idea to melt corn into corn syrup.
  6. Farmer spits in corn syrup, calls it an enzyme [wikipedia.org].
  7. Scientist notes modified corn syrup is sweet and calls it high-fructose to cover up the farmer's spit and replaces sugar in soft drinks.
  8. Consumers fresh off the previous ingredient used to lace the drink, get hooked on zero calories.
  9. Diabetes Type II breaks out among all soft drink guzzlers.
  10. Scientist come out with new way to treat diabetes without addressing a major concern of how it all got started.
  11. No one will blame the soft drink makers.

Re:HFCS (4, Insightful)

lbrandy (923907) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747826)

I realize that asking everyone to understand the nuances of every disease is a bit much, so I don't want to yell and scream too much. However, type I diabetics are the ones that need insulin injections. They are the ones that benefit from this. They did not get their diabetes from being overweight or from eating lots of sugar. It is an autoimmune reaction, and more than likely genetic.

Re:HFCS (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747911)

I'm a little confused about what you meant by:

8. Consumers fresh off the previous ingredient used to lace the drink, get hooked on zero calories.

Zero calorie drinks have neither sugar nor high-fructose corn syrup for sweeteners.

High Fructose Corn Syrup, demon of the far left. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748111)

I'm getting a little tired of the demonization of high fructose corn syrup as some sort of poison on the country. There's nothing inherently wrong with HFCS, it's nearly identical to table sugar. The problem of obesity is one of people eating to many calories, and gaining weight. It's funny that the article you link to talks just as much about eating sugar as it does eating HFCS, but yet the demon is HFCS, not table sugar.

Do you actually have any evidence that HFCS is directly causing obesity, and not just simply eating too much? Why not pick out potatoes as a food and distinguish people that eat too much of it over people who don't? Then it's potatoes that are the problem.

I hear people going nuts because there's HFCS in bread.. but somehow sugar in bread is better. Oh, and honey in bread would be best of all because it's "natural". It's funny that HFCS and honey are very similar chemically though. Both contain a similar ratio of fructose to glucose.

Cross contamination (2, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747795)

Despite what the labs says, we have seen probable cases of cross contamination between licensed seeds and unlicensed seeds. This has lead to hybrid plant, which are not necessarily a problem, and harassment of farmer who have been found in possession of the seeds, harassment because the guilt is assumed. So one wonders what will happen when 16000 acres of this stuff planted around the world. If cross contamination does occur, will the safe for average human consumption? Will the farmer's be harrased if the licensed seeds or plants are on thier properties?

Certainly like GM food, GM plant for medicine production is a great advancement. I just worry about these things getting into the wild, since the GM companies have had such a devil may care attitude in the past. Despite the statement of work for the public good, profits never seem to be cut in a effort to make the product safer, or the distribution widespread.

Knowing the drug companies . . . (3, Insightful)

jhylkema (545853) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747859)

The process reduces capital costs by 70% and product cost by 40%.

And the consumer price will be increased by 20%.

Re:Knowing the drug companies . . . (2, Interesting)

neatfoote (951656) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747934)

And the consumer price will be increased by 20%.

Not really-- according to TFA, the whole point of this new production process is that, being cheaper, it'll enable the manufacturers to sell it at prices below current retail, thus giving them a competitive advantage. If they did what you're suggesting, what would be the incentive for people to buy their more-expensive insulin over the varieties currently on the market?

Knee-jerk rants about wicked capitalists and heartless pharmaceuticals aside, this seems like an excellent example of how market forces can work in favor of innovative and, ultimately, more affordable products. Sure, it's not as good as a wholesale cure would be, but the GM-safflower method they're using may well have cross-applicability to other drug-manufacturing processes which could make it a really important advance. I highly doubt the process would have been developed had the researchers not seen the opportunity to profit from their discoveries.

Re:Knowing the drug companies . . . (3, Interesting)

MourningBlade (182180) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747942)

And the consumer price will be increased by 20%.

The insulin market is highly competitive. There's also many varities of insulin. If this one can't make a splash on price or on some other quality, it'll go nowhere.

As much as I dislike the AMA-FDA/Congress-Insurance-Pharma cartel, in this instance it's not all that accurate.

careful with articles like this (-1, Offtopic)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747865)

the pharmco's will want to slashdot slashdot. After all their labs are expensive buildings, not fields of plants

At long last... (0, Flamebait)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#15747890)

...Wow, at long last, something innovative, good and useful from Canada. One wonders why this member of the G8 has no "name brand" product associated with it. All othe G8 members have something. Will it be this insulin stuff? Hope so.

insulin made in plants, not converted from the oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15747960)

Someone please fix the description to read "The Globe and Mail reports that a Calgary biotech firm has developed a process to express human insulin in genetically-modified safflower in a manner that yields commercial quantities." Getting a protein expressed in another organism is trivial compared to the chemistry involved in converting oils harvested from a plant into polypeptide chains. You can do it, but usually it involves cells.

what about generic insulin? (5, Interesting)

ShaunC1000 (928875) | more than 7 years ago | (#15748059)

as a type 1 diabetic it amazes me that there isn't a generic insulin yet. Synthetic insulin has been around for how long now? Luckily I have insurance that covers pretty much anything I need minus a small co-pay, but I know the supplies I need costs my insurance company hundreds a month. You would think insulin and test strips could be made on the cheap by now. I guess its way too profitable for that.

Check out joinleenow.org - they need $11 million (they have $9 million so far) to test a possible treatment and cure using BCG, which I think costs $11 a vial. It amazes me how little support they're getting (maby because it could cure/treat diabetes on the cheap?). So far they have reversed 90% of type 1 diabetic mice.
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