Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre recently successfully demonstrated that a pioneering treatment strategy could reverse type 1 diabetes amongst mice. Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the all-clear for researchers from the University to begin phase 1 clinical trials to evaluate the treatment in human cases, in order to evaluate the safety and feasibility of the treatment. The trial will begin this spring, and is expected to include over 15 patients with type 1 diabetes.
The treatment involves modifying dendritic cells, a process that Dr Massimo Trucco and his team of researchers have become expert at. They found that they can harvest dendritic cells from the blood over a course of hours. The scientists then combine the cells with molecule blockers (CD40,CD80 and CD86: all synthesised under laboratory conditions), that in turn inhibits the movement of destructive t-cells. T-cells are the immune system process that attacks beta islet cells in the pancreas, causing diabetes.
Dendritic cells can be injected subcutaneously into the abdomen, and then block the T-cells on their way to the pancreas. Dr Trucco was reported as saying “we did this in mice, giving them six injections over the course of several weeks. The injections interrupted the T cell and beta cell interaction, allowing the beta cells in the pancreas to regenerate. This enabled the pancreas of the mice to begin producing insulin again.” The results in human trials remain to be seen.

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