2006 has seen many ‘breakthroughs’ in the treatment of diabetes, although almost all of them have shared one characteristic. They are at a very early stage, and large-scale clinical trials involving humans (that could give them approval) are rare. However, in America the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh are today expected to be given federal clearance to inject patients taking part in a study with their own genetically mutated immune system cells. The study could mark another milestone in the long fight to cure type 1 diabetes.
One expert, a professor of paediatric immunology, was reported as saying that the study represented “the light at the end of the tunnel.” He also revealed that within six months they will know if the treatment is effective, and can then make the progression to clinical trials. This is good news for the 1.3 million Americans who suffer from type 1 diabetes and must inject insulin on a daily basis in order to survive.
The study introduces a vaccine into children that aims to teach the immune system to stop it destroying the insulin-producing cell clusters known as the Islets of Langerhans. The immune cells being used are called dendritic cells. The study has proven effective on mice, and will be carried out on seven diabetic patients.
Their blood will be treated with strands of genetic material, and injected back into their bloodstream. Transplanted insulin-producing cells appear the simplest cure for diabetes, but in humans they often fail. This latest study offers some hope.

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