It could be a game changer for individuals dealing with Type 1 diabetes, according to a new study.
A newly “reverse vaccine” for people with Type 1 diabetes may one day allow individuals to produce their own insulin, rather than injecting it.
The innovative approach has reportedly passed its first human test, according to a statement released by Dr. Lawrence Steinman, an immunologist at Stanford University and senior author of the study. The successful test, according to researchers, could provide a potential new strategy for addressing issues related to the widespread disease.
The treatment suppresses the immune system instead of stimulating it, providing an alternative to injecting insulin. The team of scientists designed a molecule containing the gene for making proinsulin, the precursor to insulin. The molecule also included triggers killer cells’ response, eventually shutting the down and neutralizing the effects of insulin depletion.
Following successful trials with diabetic mice, the team prepared a series of vaccines aims for testing on humans. According to scientists, they selected nearly 80 volunteers aged 18 to 40 who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes within the last 5 years. Two-thirds of the study participants reportedly received the treatment, while the rest received a placebo. Normal insulin injections were made once a week for 12 weeks.
Researchers say the study showed the treatment was safe for both the experimental and placebo group. All subjects were monitored for up to two years after the initial treatment. By examining two key components of the participants’ blood, killer cells and C-peptide, the team was able to compare the results with participants receiving the placebo. Compared with participants who received the placebo, those on the new treatment saw a decline in the number of killer cells over the course of 15 weeks. It remains unclear whether scientists will pursue the treatment, although the treatment has received a large amount of attention.
The vaccine could see widespread usage should it pass an additional series of tests aimed at determining its safety. Nearly 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, and for the past 100 years the standard treatment has largely depended on insulin replacement therapy in which insulin is injected in amounts that correspond with blood sugar levels. There is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.
The treatment is being hailed as one of the most advanced to come along in generations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Type 1 diabetes develops when the body’s immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin that regulates blood glucose. To survive, people with Type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump. This form of diabetes usually strikes children and young adults, although disease onset can occur at any age. In adults, type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes may be autoimmune, genetic, or environmental.
The study is published in Wednesday’s edition of Science Translational Medicine.