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Immune systems of type 1 diabetics can be ‘retrained’

 
  • Injecting patients with tiny proteins stopped immune cells attacking insulin
  • Landmark study offers promise that scientists are ‘heading in the right direction’
  • Researchers noted how there were also no toxic side effects from the jabs

Stephen Matthews For Mailonline

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Damaged immune cells of type 1 diabetics can be ‘retrained’ to slow the progression of the condition, experts believe.

Following the success of a landmark new trial, researchers found injecting patients with tiny protein fragments stopped such cells destroying insulin.

Despite being incurable, the landmark study on pioneering immunotherapy offers promise that scientists are ‘heading in the right direction’.

The findings, dubbed ‘exciting’, were made by a team of researchers based at King’s College London and Cardiff University.

Following the success of a landmark new trial, researchers found injecting patients with tiny protein fragments stopped such cells attacking insulin (stock)

Following the success of a landmark new trial, researchers found injecting patients with tiny protein fragments stopped such cells attacking insulin (stock)

Following the success of a landmark new trial, researchers found injecting patients with tiny protein fragments stopped such cells attacking insulin (stock)

How was the study carried out?

Some 27 people were involved in the latest trial, which involved giving some patients fortnightly or monthly injections for six months.

The researchers, led by Professor Mark Peatman, found it was possible to halt the loss of beta cells that occurs with the condition.

Writing in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers noted how there were also no toxic side effects over the 12-month period.

A placebo group was also monitored over the same time frame, who showed a consistent decline in their condition and needed to increase their insulin doses.  

It appears safe at this stage 

Lead author Professor Mark Peakman said: ‘When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they still typically have between 15 and 20 per cent of their beta cells.

‘We wanted to see if we could protect these remaining cells by retraining the immune system to stop attacking them.

A BIZARRE REMEDY FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES

Turning the heating down just 1°C eases type 2 diabetes as well as any medication, research revealed in April.

Exposure to mildly cold or warm environments increases our metabolism and uses up energy.

This helps to boost insulin sensitivity and may even tackle obesity – a known risk for type 2 diabetes.

An estimated 4.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes in the UK. Type 2 makes up around 90 per cent of cases. 

Maastricht University scientists exposed type 2 diabetes patients to cold temperatures at irregular intervals, to make the discovery.

‘The peptide technology used in our trial is not only appears to be safe for patients at this stage, but it also has a noticeable effect on the immune system.’

What is type 1 diabetes? 

Type 1 diabetes afflicts some 400,000 people in the UK, one of the highest rates in the world. Around 1.25 million Americans are also affected.

It starts when the body mistakenly targets insulin-producing cells in the pancreas that maintain blood sugar levels.

As a result, it can drastically affect the body’s major organs and sufferers are forced to inject themselves regularly with insulin.

‘An exciting step’ 

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: ‘These new findings are an exciting step towards immunotherapies being used to prevent this serious condition from developing in those at high risk, or stop it from progressing in those already diagnosed.’

Karen Addington, chief executive of type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: ‘Exciting immunotherapy research like this increases the likelihood that one day insulin-producing cells can be protected and preserved.

‘That would mean people at risk of type 1 diabetes might one day need to take less insulin, and perhaps see a future where no one would ever face daily injections to stay alive.’ 

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