July 7, 2012

Preserving Beta Cell Life from Type 1 Diabetes


July 5th is a significant day in my life. It was the day, in 1985, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. On this day, twenty-seven years later, news broke out of the University of North Carolina that gives meaningful direction to arresting the T-cell attack that causes Type 1 diabetes.

Researchers found that injecting a specific antibody into  mice genetically bred to develop diabetes, quickly stopped the rogue T-cells attacking the beta cells. The antibody treatment, administered twice, was able to clear the destructive T-cells from the pancreas in a majority of the mice.

The exciting news about this short course of immunotherapy to reverse the autoimmune attack is that it does not appear to have any longstanding adverse affects caused by immunotherapy.

The enduring positive effects of the immunotherapy were shown to reverse the attack on the beta cells within two days, restore normal blood sugars within five days, and continue remission of the disease for over a year.

Cells within the body that block autoimmunity are called “immune regulatory” T-cells. The presence of these cells theoretically would deter the development of Type 1 diabetes. The two injections were shown to increase the levels of these “immune regulatory” T-cells in the mice.

Roland Tisch, PhD is the senior study author and professor of microbiology and immunology at UNC. Considering how groundbreaking this approach is in rescuing beta cells from Type 1 diabetes – will the mouse study be translated into human trials?

“We’ve demonstrated that the use of non-depleting antibodies is very robust. We’re now generating and plan to test antibodies that are specific for the human version of the CD4 and CD8 molecules.” Tisch said.

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