A major challenge with type 1 diabetes is that not only does the body lose its ability to produce insulin, the immune system also produces antibodies against the proteins in these insulin-producing beta cells. However, researchers at Linköping University in Sweden have made an exciting discovery that may prove beneficial to some individuals with type 1 diabetes.
They have created a drug based on the GAD65 protein found in the insulin-producing beta cells. This new drug, called GAD-alum, is injected directly into the lymph nodes in the groin and may help the immune system become more tolerant of the body’s GAD proteins. The patients testing the GAD-alum were also given Vitamin D supplements to reduce the inflammatory response of the immune system.
The initial study was very small – just six patients – but researchers want to expand testing to more patients and follow them for longer periods of time. The six who participated were all between the ages of 20 and 22 and had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within six months prior to the study.
Johnny Ludvigsson, principal investigator of the study and a professor at Linköping University, was very excited about the results noting, “The results for these six patients are very promising. Type 1 diabetes usually progresses gradually as the patient loses the ability to produce insulin, but this has not happened in these patients. We must follow them for a longer period and we must include more patients before we can say anything about the effectiveness of the treatment, but the results so far are extremely exciting.”
All of the patients were followed for at least six months, and four were followed for more than 15 months. The results showed that their natural insulin production remained at stable levels and there was a decreased need for extra insulin injections. This could be very promising for the future of type 1 diabetes treatment, at least for some patients.
“If these results are confirmed when we test more patients, it would be an extremely important advance,” says Ludvigsson. “The way in which type 1 diabetes progresses differs between individuals for many reasons, and this means that it is not necessary to find a treatment that has excellent effects for everyone. Even if it helps only half of patients, this would be a major step forward.”
It is these types of small, innovative research studies that pave the way for more comprehensive studies and trials. The Diabetes Research Connection is committed to generating funding for early-career scientists with exciting ideas for the prevention, treatment, and cure of type 1 diabetes. Learn more about proposed studies and donate to support their progress online at Diabetes Research Connection.