Immunotherapy succeeds in thwarting type 1 diabetes in study

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Twenty-seven people with early-stage type 1 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive the placebo or the proinsulin peptide immunotherapy.

Professor Peakman, who led the trial, said: "When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they still typically have between 15% and 20% of their beta cells".

Immunotherapies work by trying to get regulartory T-cells to keep the immune response of the body from attacking its own tissues.

A twice-daily injection with "small fragments" of protein molecules helped prevent cells from attacking insulin, researchers at King's College London (KCL) and Cardiff University observed. Importantly, all eight subjects in the placebo arm needed to increase their insulin doses over the 12-month course of the study, whereas individuals receiving the new treatment all remained stable.

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Type 1 Diabetes is a lifelong condition that affects approximately 400,000 people in the United Kingdom, and develops when a person's immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, meaning they can not efficiently control their blood sugar (glucose) level. Patients were randomized into one of three groups: one group received immunotherapy every two weeks; a second group received immunotherapy every four weeks; and a third group received placebo.

A form of immunotherapy gaining ground as a way to treat childhood food allergies has shown promise in treating another rising scourge of children and young adults: Type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, the patients demonstrated signs of increased regulatory immune responses, and decreased activation of beta cell-attacking T cells.

There is no known cure, but these results suggest scientists are "heading in the right direction", according to Professor Mark Peakman of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and KCL. As many as 1.25 million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes, and the autoimmune disorder's prevalence has been increasing in recent decades, with roughly 40,000 people diagnosed each year. Like many autoimmune disorders, including celiac disease and lupus, the incidence of Type 1 diabetes appears to have risen sharply.

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