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Immunotherapy therapy shown to ‘slow type 1 diabetes progression’

By Editor
10th August 2017

Pioneering therapy which retrains the immune system and slows down the development of type 1 diabetes has been shown to be safe.

The landmark MonoPepT1De study looked at how effective immunotherapy therapy was at slowing down the progression of the condition on a small group of people.

The treatment involves injecting a person’s blood with short segments of proinsulin, a molecule produced by beta cells that is then turned into insulin. These fragments train attacking T-cells to recognise them as harmless and thus stop attacking beta cells that make proinsulin.

The trial, which was led by researchers from King’s College London, involved 27 people in the UK who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within 100 days. The participants were randomly split and one group was given the therapy and the other group received a placebo.

Lead author Professor Mark Peakman, whose work is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, said: “When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they still typically have between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of their beta cells. We wanted to see if we could protect these remaining cells by retraining the immune system to stop attacking them.

“We still have a long way to go, but these early results suggest we are heading in the right direction. The peptide technology used in our trial not only appears to be safe for patients at this stage, but it also has a noticeable effect on the immune system.”

Clinical chief investigator for the study, Professor Colin Dayan from Cardiff University, said: “It was encouraging to see that people who received the treatment needed less insulin to control their blood glucose levels, suggesting that their pancreas was working better.”

The study was also supported by Diabetes UK and the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, 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.”

JDRF’s UK chief executive Karen Addington 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 findings of the research have been published in the Science Translational Medicine journal. To read the study, click here.

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