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New Vaccine May Help Type 1 Diabetics in Future
Date:10/8/2008

Early study finds it appears to sustain insulin production in the newly diagnosed.

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Swedish researchers have developed a vaccine that may change the way the immune system responds in people who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

"By a very simple vaccination, without adverse events, it seems possible to save [a person's] own insulin secretion, which may be extremely important for diabetic children and adolescents," said the study's lead author, Dr. Johnny Ludvigsson, a professor of pediatrics and head physician at Linkoping University Hospital.

However, the results of this preliminary study didn't change the clinical course of the disease for the study participants. Insulin requirements of children involved in the study were similar whether the children were treated with the new vaccine or received a placebo.

Results of the study were released Wednesday online by the New England Journal of Medicine, and will be published in its Oct. 30 issue.

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks itself. In type 1 diabetes, "insulin-producing cells are killed by their own immune system in a 'civil war,' " said Ludvigsson. This civil war leads to a lack of insulin in the body, and insulin is a key hormone that allows the body to metabolize carbohydrates and sugar from foods. Without replacement insulin, people with type 1 diabetes would die. Even with treatment, there are numerous complications that can occur, including damage to the kidneys, eyes, heart and nerves.

Past research on interrupting an immune system gone awry has focused on drugs that suppress the immune system, like those used for people receiving transplants or being treated for cancer. Although researchers did have some success in slowing or stopping early-onset diabetes, that success came at a cost.

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