If this news report and the research behind it are accurate, this is a huge story. A tip of the hat to Steve Story, who dropped this link to me in email. (Update: Another hat tip to Arkady Bukh for the new link since the old one forgot itself.) I’d say it is comparable to to discovery that most stomach ulcers are due to bacterial infection and not simply stress, except in the other direction. The disease being researched was diabetes, the subject species was mice, and the result was that turning off pancreatic sensory nerves reversed Type I diabetes in mice.
Let that sink in for a moment.
The implication is that Type I diabetes could primarily be caused by a problem in neurology, not simply an auto-immune problem as has been assumed by most physicians. It also opens up possibilities for treatment that go way beyond the current standard of care, insulin replacement therapy.
Of course, there are a lot of steps to be taken, like doing the tests on humans and working up clinical trials for treatments. Even if the research holds up to scrutiny, it will take years before a treatment based upon this new information could become available.
It will not be a surprise, though, if the research does not pan out. In science, there are far more ideas that don’t work than ideas that do. While the process of discovering error is nowhere near foolproof in science, it nonetheless does so reliably enough to cause a strong majority of the population to trust scientists and the work they do highly.