Scientists have discovered a new way of slowing down the progression of type 1 diabetes, which usually develops in young people.
The researchers from King’s College London and Cardiff University found that a new type of immune treatment known as MonoPepT1De forestalls the development of the disease.
The disease happens when the body’s immune system destroys special cells in the pancreas known as beta cells.
These cells are responsible for the production of the insulin hormone which regulates blood sugar in human beings.
Based on findings of a Phase 1 research trial study published in the ‘‘Journal of Science Translational Medicine’’, researchers found that injecting type 1 diabetes patients with MonoPepT1De helped in slowing down the progression of the disease by preventing the immune system from attacking the beta cells.
Prof Colin Dayan, Chief Investigator for the study from Cardiff University, noted that people who received the treatment needed less artificial insulin treatment to control blood sugar levels, suggesting that their pancreas was working better than those who did not get the treatment.
When people are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, they usually still have between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of their beta cells.
But without treatment, these cells slowly decrease up to a level that makes the body unable to maintain normal blood sugar levels on its own.
Patients thus have to rely solely on huge amounts of artificial insulin for blood sugar control.
The study sought to find out if the new treatment could protect the beta cells in type 1 diabetes patients by retraining the immune system to stop attacking them.
Results showed that the MonoPepT1De treatment preserved the beta cells of newly diagnosed patients that benefitted from it.
They thus required less artificial insulin – during the study period of one year – as their pancreas could still be able to produce some natural insulin.
However, patients that did not get the treatment ended up injecting 50 percent more artificial insulin by the end of the year.
This suggested that they were losing beta cells at a faster rate than those injected with the MonoPepT1De immune treatment.
“We still have a long way to go, but these early results suggest that we are heading in the right direction,” said Professor Mark Peakman, a senior author of the study from King’s College London
He added that aside from being safe for patients, the treatment also had a noticeable effect on the immune system.
The researchers note that in future, the new treatment could enable people with a new diagnosis of type1 diabetes to protect their remaining beta cells for a long period and thus require less artificial insulin over time.
They believe that it is also a step along the path to a preventative treatment, which would mean those at risk of type 1 diabetes never develop the condition at all.
Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of JDRF (type 1 diabetes charity), which funded the research said that the findings of the study increase the likelihood that one day insulin-producing beta cells can be protected and preserved.