Novel DNA vaccine for type 1 diabetes shows early promise

Thu, 27 Jun 2013
Scientists have made a breakthrough in their efforts to tackle type 1 diabetes, with new research showing promising results for a never-before-seen vaccine .

The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, shows that the experimental vaccine may be able to reverse type 1 diabetes by intentionally shutting down specific sections of the immune system that attack and destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Created by scientists from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and Stanford University in California, the TOL-302 vaccine is genetically engineered to switch off only the rogue immune cells that cause harm, while leaving the rest of the immune system intact.

To test it, the researchers conducted an early-stage clinical trial involving 80 people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

After three months of weekly injections of the vaccine, they found that some of the patients' remaining beta cells were preserved without causing serious side effects.

Levels of C-peptide - a reliable marker for pancreatic beta cell function and a good proxy for insulin production - improved in patients given the vaccine, while the number of killer immune cells fell significantly.

"We're very excited by these results, which suggest that the immunologist's dream of shutting down just a single subset of dysfunctional immune cells without wrecking the whole immune system may be attainable," said Stanford Professor Dr. Lawrence Steinman, one of the study's senior authors.

He added that the results are encouraging enough to warrant a bigger clinical trial to measure the long-term effect of the novel 'reverse' vaccine on a larger group of patients.

Karen Addington, UK chief executive of the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, commented: "For the first time we have evidence that this particular type of vaccine has an effect in preserving insulin production in humans."

"This is a significant step forward on the journey towards a world without type 1 diabetes."
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