Lettuce Could Help Patients With Diabetes

Veggie Use Expands Beyond Salads

It's likely in your fridge and now scientists are studying it to help patients with type 1 diabetes. Lettuce could soon help the millions of Americans diagnosed with this chronic disease.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. The disease does not allow the body to produce insulin, which is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.

Type 1 diabetes can lead to complications including heart and kidney disease, blindness and nerve damage.

Soon Dr. Henry Daniell from the University of Central Florida may have an answer for people suffering from the disease and it could come from lettuce.

Daniell injects the human gene for insulin into leaves of lettuce that are grown in the lab. The leaves can be ground into powder and put into a capsule. The lettuce helps the powdered capsule reach the intestine.

Once in the intestine, plant cells meet with bacteria and release the insulin. This stimulates an immune response and tells the body to produce its own insulin.

"What we have done is to teach the body how to cure this disorder," said Daniell.

Daniell has been working to perfect this idea for the past 20 years. He said patients would only have to take the pill for weeks, not months or years. Once their immune system responds, they would essentially no longer have the disease, he said.

He tested the lettuce powder on mice with diabetes and after eight weeks of treatment, all of the mice had normal blood sugar levels and were producing normal levels of insulin.

Daniell said this could be a permanent solution.

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