For the current research, Pileggi and his colleagues used two types of mice. One type develops diabetes spontaneously. It's not exactly the same as type 1 diabetes in humans, but it is very similar, and Pileggi said "it's a good surrogate of type 1." And, the second type doesn't develop diabetes on its own, but the researchers induced diabetes.
In the mice that spontaneously develop diabetes that received hyperbaric therapy, the risk of developing diabetes was reduced by 20 percent. In the mice with induced diabetes, the treatment reduced the risk of diabetes by 40 percent, according to the study. In the mice that still developed diabetes in both groups, treatment with hyperbaric therapy helped delay the onset or progression of the disease.
Pileggi said that the researchers aren't yet clear exactly how hyperbaric therapy prevents or slows the disease, but it's clear the therapy has positive effects on the immune system.
The researchers were also pleasantly surprised to see that the therapy caused a significant increase in creation of new beta cells. "If you can reeducate immune cells and enhance the beta cell mass, that's an ideal situation. But, it's not a silver bullet for diabetes. It could be an adjuvant to other therapies," said Pileggi.
Pileggi said the researchers will test combination treatments but added that it's too soon to guess when such a treatment might be tried in humans.
Another expert said any application to humans is years away.
"This is a novel idea from a good research group. But, while the mouse model is good to study, it doesn't mean that what is affected in mice wi
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