- Type 1 diabetes develops when a patient's immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas.
- There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, which can affect major organs in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys.
- A recent trial finds that retraining the immune cells may slow down the progression of type 1 diabetes.
When a patient's immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas, Type 1 diabetes develop. The number of beta cells will slowly decrease and the body will no longer be able to maintain normal blood sugar (blood glucose) levels.
A recent trial finds that retraining the immune cells may slow down the progression of type 1 diabetes.
‘Immunotherapy using peptides in an effort to reduce the attack of the immune system on beta cells may reduce the progression of type 1 diabetes.’
Researchers leading the MonoPepT1De trial at King's College London and Cardiff University injected peptides, small fragments of the protein molecules found in the beta cells of the pancreas.
They observed noticeable changes in the behavior of the immune systems of type 1 diabetes patients. Professor Mark Peakman says: "When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they still typically have between 15% and 20% of their beta cells. We wanted to see if we could protect these remaining cells by retraining the immune system to stop attacking them."
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, the charity who supported the lead author of the study, said: "Diabetes UK is committed to increasing our understanding of the immune attack in type 1 diabetes and finding ways to stop it. 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."
New Approach To Treat Type 1 Diabetes
Injecting insulin to regulate blood glucose levels after a meal is the only treatment that is followed. But there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. Prolonged high levels of blood glucose levels and the improper management of type 1 diabetes an affect major organs in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys.
Professor Mark Peakman explains that the peptide technology used in the trial might be safe to be used as a treatment as it has a noticeable effect on the immune system. But the trial requires further investigation and the early results are promising.
"It was encouraging to see that people who receive the treatment needed less insulin to control their blood glucose levels, suggesting that their pancreas was working better" commented, Prof Colin Dayan from Cardiff University, the clinical Chief Investigator for the study.
Karen Addington is UK Chief Executive of the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF which funded the research, 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."
- Mark Peakman et al., Pioneering immunotherapy shows promise in type 1 diabetes, Science Translational Medicine (2017).