Administering a new protein to people with type 1 diabetes could return blood glucose levels to normal or reverse the disease, according to Swedish scientists.
This protein is known as interleukin-35 (IL-35), which was shown by researchers at Uppsala University to normalise blood glucose levels in mice.
In their study, they investigated how the function of immune regulatory T cells is altered by the production of pro-inflammatory proteins that attack the immune system. When the immune system attacks its own insulin-producing cells, this leads to type 1 diabetes.
IL-35 is a protective anti-inflammatory protein, but the researchers concluded IL-35 levels were lower in type 1 patients than healthy individuals.
To assess how IL-35 worked within the conditions of type 1, mice were injected with a chemical compound called strepozotocin. After developing signs of type 1, and having higher blood glucose levels, they were injected with IL-35. Within two days, their blood glucose normalised.
In another test, IL-35 was injected into a model of type 1 diabetes called a non-obese diabetic mouse (NOD). After treatment, diabetes did not return in any of the mouse models.
Dr. Kailash Singh, a PhD student at Uppsala University, said: “To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to show that IL-35 can reverse established type 1 diabetes in two different mouse models and that the concentration of the particular cytokine is lower in type 1 diabetes patients than in healthy individuals.
“Also, we are providing an insight into a novel mechanism: how immune regulatory T cells change their fate under autoimmune conditions.”
The researchers believe further investigation into IL-35 treatment for type 1 diabetes could provide new evidence about why regulatory T cells in the immune system fail to prevent the disease from developing.
As of yet, only studies on mice have assessed how IL-35 could work within type 1 diabetes, and human studies will be required to determine if this is a viable treatment for type 1.
Proteins are becoming a valuable source of scientific knowledge regarding type 1 diabetes. Earlier this week, the Medical College of Georgia concluded that high levels of four proteins could protein against type 1 diabetes.

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