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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Diabetes Channel
Reported August 4, 2008

Medicine's Next Big Thing: Lettuce for Diabetes

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It's likely in your fridge and now, scientists are studying it to help patients with type one diabetes. Lettuce could soon help the millions of people in the United States diagnosed with this chronic disease.

Mike Beckman has been living with type 1 diabetes for 34 years -- something he just can't forget about.

"It's with you every day," he told Ivanhoe. "Every day it is with you."

He's had bleeding in his eyes, a heart attack, nerve damage and now, both of his kidneys are failing. The disease has taken its toll on his body … and his family life.

"I have a very young daughter," Beck said. "I'd like to see her grow up and see grandchildren."

Soon researcher Henry Daniell may have an answer for people like mike … and it could come from lettuce.

"This is a totally new concept," Henry Daniell, Ph.D., a molecular biologist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., told Ivanhoe.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Daniell has worked to perfect the method. He injects the human gene for insulin into leaves of lettuce that are grown in the lab. The leaves can be ground into a powder and put into a capsule.

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

The lettuce helps the powdered capsule reach the intestine. There, plant cells meet with bacteria and release the insulin. This stimulates an immune response and tells the body to produce its own insulin.

The first test was in animals. After eight weeks, all the diabetic mice had normal blood sugar levels and produced insulin -- even after they stopped taking the lettuce. Now, human trials are planned. Dr. Daniell says if all goes well, this could be a permanent solution.

"It would mean everything in the world to me. I could literally give up everything, other than my family, to have a cure," Beckman proclaimed. Research is one step closer to giving him just that.

Dr. Daniell says 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 also says because this is a plant-based therapy, it would only cost pennies to produce. There were no side effects observed in the mice. Human trials are expected to start in the next year.


Henry Daniell, PhD
University of Central Florida, College of Medicine

To read Ivanhoe's full-length interview with Dr. Daniell, click here.

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If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Lindsay Braun at


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