A small clinical trial showed an immune system therapy was safe for people with, British researchers report.
Thealso showed signs of helping to keep insulin production steady in people newly diagnosed with the disease, the study authors said. However, because this was a placebo-controlled safety trial, there weren’t enough people included to know for sure how well the treatment works.
The therapy is similar to an allergy shot in the way it works, the researchers explained.
“Type 1 diabetes comes about when the immune system inadvertently and irreparably damages beta cells that make,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Mark Peakman. He’s a professor of clinical immunology at King’s College London in England.
Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps usher the sugar from foods into the body’s cells to be used as energy. If the immune system continues to attack the beta cells, which are found in the pancreas, a person with type 1 diabetes will no longer make enough insulin to meet the body’s needs. It’s at this point that they must takeor use an insulin pump to replace the lost insulin.
Peakman and his colleagues are trying to stop the attacks on the beta cells.
“We have learned that immune attacks like this can be suppressed by immune cells called T-regs (regulatory T cells),” Peakman said.
When people develop type 1 diabetes, it’s likely that they don’t have enough of the right type of T-regs or those T-regs aren’t working very well. So, the investigators developed a type of treatment called peptide immunotherapy using disease-related autoantigens.
Autoantigens are the substances that cause an autoimmune attack, but it’s not clear which ones are responsible for a person’s diabetes, according to Simi Ahmed, a senior scientist at JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) in New York City.
Ahmed said the immunotherapy re-educates the immune system, and teaches the cells that they shouldn’t attack the beta cells.
Peakman pointed out that the researchers “used peptide immunotherapy as a way to try and induce more of these cells and/or make them work better. Our results show encouraging signs that this can be achieved. Next steps will be bigger trials to test whether the therapy can halt beta cell damage.”
And, he added, “Scientists think this works by enhancing natural immune networks that control inflammation.”
The study included 27 people with type 1 diabetes who had been diagnosed…