A low dose of a drug used to help kidney transplant patients could preserve insulin production in newly diagnosed people with type 1 diabetes.
Thymoglobulin (ATG), which is commonly used to help kidney transplant patients avoid rejectio, achieved “remarkable success” in treating type 1 diabetes. Researchers are now upbeat the drug could play a pivotal role in one day reversing type 1 diabetes.
The findings were taken from TrialNet, a two-year trial which looked to expand on previous research showing ATG, in combination with pegylated granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF), a chemotherapy drug, boosted insulin production in newly diagnosed type 1s.
A total of 89 people were enrolled, aged 12-45, who had been diagnosed within the previous 100 days. They were then divided into three groups: one received a low ATG dose, the second received ATB and GCSF, and the third received placebo.
Insulin production increased among those given low-dose ATG compared with placebo, and participants had significantly reduced HbA1c levels. In comparison, the combination treatment yielded no efficacy beyond ATG alone, nor did placebo.
The researchers discovered that ATG works by killing certain immune cells which target white blood cells and attack insulin-producing cells. This process is what characterises the development of type 1 diabetes.
“We still have a long way to go but this is a remarkable success that we should celebrate. These findings remind us and our patients that we are indeed making progress,” said lead author Dr Michael Haller, a University of Florida Diabetes Institute researcher.
“It gives us hope that we really are on the right path to preventing and reversing type 1 diabetes.”
Dr Haller added that ATG is not a permanent cure nor a way to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes, but the drug could significantly help newly diagnosed type 1s, particularly in controlling blood glucose levels.
Now, the researchers will aim to extend its efficacy by re-treating these patients. They also plan to investigate whether ATG can prevent type 1 onset among those at high risk of the condition.
The findings are expected to be published online in the journal Diabetes Care.

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