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

caused severe toxic side effects," said Dr. Denise Faustman, director of immunobiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and the author of an accompanying editorial in the journal. "With a big immune suppressant, you can change the amount of insulin kids take, sometimes you can even make them insulin-free for awhile, but you may cause kidney damage. The ratio of toxicity versus benefit wasn't there."

The new vaccine treatment under study focuses on the immune response, rather than trying to blunt the entire immune system. It's made of a protein called GAD that's normally found in the brain and in the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas. In people with diabetes, it's as if they're allergic to GAD, Ludvigsson explained.

The hope is that the vaccine he and his team developed -- which was administered the first day of the study and then again at day 30 -- will work in a similar manner to allergy immunotherapy and help the body learn to tolerate GAD again.

The study included 70 children between the ages of 10 and 18 who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes no more than 18 months before the start of the study. The children were randomly split into two groups -- one received treatment, the other a placebo.

At the end of the study, insulin requirements didn't change. But, in children who were more recently diagnosed, there was evidence that the treated group retained more activity in their pancreas, Ludvigsson said.

That's important because the more insulin-producing function you retain, "the short-term risks are less, as are the risk of long-term complications," said Dr. Richard Insel, executive vice president of research for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

"What you're seeing is, the field is trying to move away from broad-based immunosuppression to targeting one specific immune response, and this is an early attempt to develop a much more focused approach to modulate immune
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