Researchers believe a new drug called IMCY-0098 may be able to prevent those at risk of type 1 diabetes from developing the autoimmune disease.
The disease destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, preventing the body from being able to regulate blood glucose levels adequately. Without the hormone insulin, sugar builds up in the blood, causing potentially life-threatening damage to organs.
While the exact causes of type 1 diabetes are still unknown, IMCY-0098 blocks the faulty immune system response that initiates the disease.
The drug has been administered to patients with early-stage type 1 diabetes in previous studies. IMCY-0098 successfully stopped the further progression of the disease by suppressing the production of CD4 – a type of white blood cell which damages the immune system and triggers the onset of type 1 diabetes.
As it only targets the CD4 cells, the drug will not affect the immune system’s ability to defend the body against other infections.
The drug could now be used to treat those who are yet to be diagnosed with the disease but show the symptoms of type 1 diabetes such as excessive thirst, frequent urination and fatigue.
People with type 1 diabetes have to constantly monitor their blood glucose levels and inject themselves with insulin medication at least twice a day. Although technology such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors can make it easier for those living with diabetes to manage their condition.
As reported in the Daily Mail, Professor Katharine Owen, a diabetes expert at Oxford University who led a branch of the trial, said: “Insulin is a brilliant treatment but it does nothing to halt the progress of the disease.
We already know the new drug preserves the pancreas, so patients have some ability to produce insulin. This means they are not wholly reliant on injections to regulate blood sugar levels, which is better for them in the long term.”
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“In the next ten years, patients found to be at risk could be given IMCY-0098 or other drugs that are currently in development to prevent them getting diabetes in the first place, or delay its progression for decades,” Professor Owen concluded.