An experimental drug designed to block the progression of type 1 diabetes in its earliest stages has proven hugely effective in preliminary tests.
The results of a Phase III clinical trial of the drug teplizumab, published online in the journal Diabetes, showed it was able to effectively stop type 1 diabetes in its tracks in roughly half of the diabetic patients who participated in the two-year study.
Most of the trial patients were under 14 years old and had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within eight weeks of the start of the trial.
Those who benefited the most still had relatively good blood sugar control and only a moderate need for insulin injections at the outset. Treatment with teplizumab allowed them to maintain their level of insulin production for the full two years.
“The benefits of treatment among the patients who still had moderately healthy insulin production suggests that the sooner we can detect the pre-diabetes condition and get this kind of drug onboard, the more people we can protect from the progressive damage caused by an autoimmune attack,” said co-leader of the research Professor Jeffrey Bluestone, of the University of California.
Teplizumab helps preserve the body’s ability to make insulin by using an antibody targeted against a molecule called CD3 to bind to the immune system’s T-cells and stop them from attacking insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
The clinical trial of the new medication was led by Professor Kevan Herold, of Yale University. He said he was “very excited by the efficacy of the drug”, but noted that not all of the study participants benefited from the treatment.

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