A study carried by Yale University shows that a new immune system modulating treatment can reduce the rate at which beta cells are destroyed by the immune system.
In type 1 diabetes, one or more events cause the immune system to incorrectly target and kill the beta cells in the pancreas as invading pathogens. It is the beta cells which produce insulin.
The drug teplizumab is an anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody and works by binding to the CD3 antibodies to prevent them killing the pancreas’ insulin producing cells. The study showed that teplizumab was able to significantly reduce beta cell death in patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes and therefore these patients were able to produce more insulin than those not taking the drug. Teplizumab is one of a number of drugs that are being trialed as vaccines or treatments for type 1 diabetes.
The study involved 43 people with recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes, 37 type 1 diabetes patients treated with teplizumab or placebo and 13 nondiabetic participants. In addition to showing decreased beta cell death in those taking teplizumab, the study also showed that beta cell death varied depending on how long someone had type 1 diabetes.
People recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes had higher rate of death of beta cells than nondiabetic subjects. However, people with long standing type 1 diabetes had a lower death rate of beta cells than nondiabetic subjects. It is worth noting people with longstanding type 1 diabetes will have a much lower total number of beta cells.
The study, Immune Therapy and â-Cell Death in Type 1 Diabetes, is published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Journal.

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