Breakthrough 'Reverse' Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine Makes Insulin

First Posted: Jul 01, 2013 10:54 AM EDT

Some scientists believe that a reverse vaccine could help Type 1 diabetes patients produce more insulin, helping to lessen the need for treatments that provide the hormone.

This innovative approach has allegedly passed its first human test, according to a statement newly released by Dr. Lawrence Steinman, an immunologist at Stanford university and senior author of the study.

The treatment works by suppressing the immune system instead of stimulating it and providing an alternative to painful insulin injections. Steinman writes, according to the study, that he and colleagues worked to design the vaccine by making a molecule that contains the gene for making proinsulin, known as the precursor to insulin. This molecule also includes trigger killer cells' response that eventually shut down and neutralize the effects of insulin depletion.

Successful trials in diabetic mice have allowed for testing in humans. According to the study, approximately 80 volunteers ages 18 to 40 who had recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes within the last 5 years participated in the study, and two-thirds of them received the treatment while the rest received a placebo. Each participant received normal insulin injections once a week for a 12 week period.

Those who received the new treatment saw a decline in the number of killer cells over the course of 15 weeks comapred to those who received the placebo. However, researchers note that it still remains unclear whether this new method will be used as a treatment for Type 1 diabetes.

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More findings regarding the study can be found in Science Translational Medicine

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