A year ago, I wrote a post (“Sources Named: Who I quote and why“) explaining how and why I choose my sources. I want to know something is an original source, or a retelling or re-reporting. Sometimes, the source ends up being fifth hand, with very different wording or meaning than the original. It ends up being a game of telegraph rather than telephone.
I also said I prefer scientific sources or university publication over news sources. Commercial news likes to embellish, either to sell fear or false hope rather than print boring facts. When was the last time you saw “study reconfirms theory”? An item from the past week shows why I do this.
Taiwan News is “journalism” on par with The Express (UK) or “weekly world news”. I don’t believe anything TN posts, even when it goes back to the original source and its hard to get wrong (e.g. earthquake reports). So when they published an item last week (9/23) about a “cure for diabetes”, my immediate response was, “Yeah, right.”
Taiwanese scientists have discovered a key mechanism that causes diabetes and developed a new drug treatment that could “fully reverse” the disease, according to reports.
Diabetes has been shown to be caused by the loss and function of Beta cells (β-cells) in pancreatic islets, which are regions of the pancreas that contain hormone-producing cells. Yang Wen-chin (楊文欽) and his team at Academia Sinica’s Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center (ABRC) have discovered through experiments on mice that the protein-coding gene, Pdia4 (Protein Disulfide Isomerase Family A Member 4), is responsible for the destruction of β-cells and that inhibiting this gene can prevent and even reverse the loss of such cells.
The so-called “news” mentions a couple of names, but zero sources. I’ve been waiting for a better report, and actively seeking scientific papers to see how wrong Taiwan News was.
On Saturday (9/25), the Taipei Times showed why sources matter. Not only do they more accurately call this a treatment for diabetes, not a “cure”, they also cite the scientific publication where it was published. Now I consider this a credible story.
Taiwanese researchers have identified a gene that they say might help doctors treat diabetes.
A study by a research team at Academia Sinica’s Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center showed that the expression of protein disulfide isomerase family A member 4 (PDIA4) is linked to diabetes.
The research was published in this month’s issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine, an open-source, peer-reviewed scientific journal based in Europe.
Details make a difference – who wrote it, where it’s published, and how to find it and then read it. The details of the paper are waaayyy over my head (though I’m sure PZM understands it), but you can get the gist of it from the abstract (page 1 of the PDF, and below) and Paper Explained (page 19):
Loss of β-cell number and function is a hallmark of diabetes. β-cell preservation is emerging as a promising strategy to treat and reverse diabetes. Here, we first found that Pdia4 was primarily expressed in β-cells. This expression was up-regulated in β-cells and blood of mice in response to excess nutrients. Ablation of Pdia4 alleviated diabetes as shown by reduced islet destruction, blood glucose and HbA1c, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and increased insulin secretion in diabetic mice. Strikingly, this ablation alone or in combination with food reduction could fully reverse diabetes. Conversely, overexpression of Pdia4 had the opposite pathophysiological outcomes in the mice. In addition, Pdia4 positively regulated β-cell death, dysfunction, and ROS production. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that Pdia4 increased ROS content in β-cells via its action on the pathway of Ndufs3 and p22phox. Finally, we found that 2-b-D-glucopyranosyloxy1-hydroxytrideca 5,7,9,11-tetrayne(GHTT), a Pdia4 inhibitor, suppressed diabetic development in diabetic mice. These findings characterize Pdia4 as a crucial regulator of β-cell pathogenesis and diabetes, suggesting Pdia4 is a novel therapeutic and diagnostic target of diabetes.
I said nineteen months ago I would amend, update, and link to the 2020 post on the main page. Oops.