News ID: 198453
Published: 0640 GMT August 12, 2017

Diabetes: Retrained immune system may slow type 1 attack

Diabetes: Retrained immune system may slow type 1 attack

Experts believe it may be possible to ‘retrain’ immune systems to safely slow the advance of type 1 diabetes, following a new trial.

Injecting patients with ‘small fragments’ of protein molecules helped prevent cells from attacking insulin, researchers at King's College London (KCL) and Cardiff University observed, reported.

The disease starts when the body mistakenly targets cells in the pancreas that maintain blood sugar levels.

Professor Mark Peakman of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and KCL, said, “There is no known cure, but these results suggest scientists are heading in the right direction.

"When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they still typically have between 15 percent and 20 percent of their beta cells.

"We wanted to see if we could protect these remaining cells by retraining the immune system to stop attacking them.

"The peptide technology used in our trial is not only appears to be safe for patients at this stage, but it also has a noticeable effect on the immune system."

The immunotherapy was trialed on 27 patients and was placebo-controlled.

Type 1 diabetes afflicts some 400,000 people in the UK, one of the highest rates in the world.

It can affect the body's major organs and sufferers have to inject themselves regularly with insulin.

Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, the director of research at Diabetes UK, said, "These new findings are an exciting step towards immunotherapies being used to prevent this serious condition from developing in those at high risk, or stop it from progressing in those already diagnosed."

Karen Addington, the chief executive of type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said, "Exciting immunotherapy research like this increases the likelihood that one day insulin-producing cells can be protected and preserved.

"That would mean people at risk of type 1 diabetes might one day need to take less insulin, and perhaps see a future where no one would ever face daily injections to stay alive."

The MonoPepT1De trial was supported by Diabetes UK and JDRF.

The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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