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2-Plants: GE rice developed to replace insulin injections



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TITLE:  Rice could spare the needle
SOURCE: Sapa-AFP / news24.com, South Africa
        http://www.health24.co.za/news.asp?action=art&SubContentTypeId=49
        &ContentID=22304
DATE:   May 14, 2003

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


Rice could spare the needle

Japanese laboratories have developed rice plants that could free serious
diabetes patients from regular insulin injections by promoting their own
bodies' production of the key hormone, researchers said Wednesday. The
genetically modified rice was developed jointly by the Japanese National
Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS), private sector Japan Paper
Industries and Sanwa Kagaku Research Institute. Fumio Takaiwa, head of
the NIAS research team said it was the first time that a foodstuff had
been developed as an effective treatment for diabetes.

More about diabetes

Diabetes is a disorder characterised by a chronic, toxic excess of sugar
in the blood caused by a lack of insulin, a hormone secreted by the
pancreas. It afflicts more than 150 million people worldwide and can
cause blindness, kidney failure and even death. There are two distinct
types. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in children and young adults,
but the disorder can appear at any age. Type 2, or "adult" diabetes,
traditionally affects people over 55 and apparently develops as a
consequence of obesity or weight gain, and is now being detected among
children. It accounts for 90 percent of US diabetes cases.

How the new rice strain works

The newly developed rice strain contains a high level of another hormone,
the GLP-1, which promotes the pancreas' release of insulin. The
development is "epoch-making ... as it enables us to eat the staple food
of Japanese, increase insulin secretion, and lower glucose levels in
blood," in Type 2 diabetics, the three research partners said in a
statement. A standard Japanese helping of rice at every meal is believed
to be enough to control diabetics' glucose levels. There are 6,9 million
diabetics in Japan.

 On the market within the next few weeks

The project aims at commercialising the rice in two-to-three years but
research director Takahito Jomori at Sanwa Kagaku admitted it could take
some more time for it to be available to consumers. Since there are
restrictions on where genetically modified plants may be grown in Japan,
the rice may have to be grown overseas such as in the United States, he said.