Scientists are working on developing a vaccine for type 1 diabetes based on the findings of a project to prevent celiac disease.
The JDRF’s T1D Fund, which aims to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, has pledged funds to a scientific research company called ImmusanT, which will be working to try to create a vaccine to prevent type 1 diabetes.
The company will be using some of the transferable knowledge and lessons gained from its celiac disease immunotherapy programmen, which has been successful in early stage phase 1 studies.
The therapeutic vaccine for celiac disease is called Nexvax2. It is based on peptides, compounds consisting of two or more amino acids linked in a chain.
The substances responsible for causing inflammatory responses in people with autoimmune diseases have been identified in the celiac peptide programmen, with a view to turning off these autoimmune responses.
Now, researchers hope to transfer this research to a type 1 diabetes vaccine. If they can identify the peptides that spark the development of type 1 diabetes, it could further advance the treatment options available.
Speaking to Endocrine Today, ImmusanT’s chief scientific officer Dr Robert Anderson said: “If you have the means of identifying the peptides, you have this whole realm of highly targeted immunotherapy, which really focuses on the disease-causing component of the immune system and leaves the rest of the body and the immune system alone.
“That’s really the heart of the disease in terms of understanding the cause, but also in tackling the clinical effects of the disease process and that’s the whole new realm of therapeutics.”
The ‘holy grail’ of the program, according to the research team, is to determine the potential for type 1 diabetes in a person and effectively prevent insulin dependency before it even begins.
It is hoped that progression on a potential therapy for type 1 diabetes would be quicker because of the knowledge gained during the celiac research. However, translating the celiac therapy to type 1 diabetes will be still be challenging.
“Type 1 diabetes is a little bit more mixed than celiac disease,” said Dr Anderson. “We need to consider the condition as the end result of some maybe slightly different genetic backgrounds that generate two similar responses.”

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