The question was: Would such regeneration take place in humans with type 1 diabetes if the immune-system attack that causes type 1 diabetes in the first place was stopped?
To answer that question, Faustman and her colleagues recruited six people with type 1 diabetes who were randomly assigned to receive two injections of either the vaccine or a placebo, and they were compared to one control group without diabetes and one with the disease.
The average duration of type 1 diabetes at the beginning of the study was 15.3 years, and the average age of those with diabetes was 35.
During the 20-week study, two out of the three people treated with BCG had evidence of bad T-cell death and increases in the levels of protective T-cells. They also showed an elevation in levels of a substance called C-peptide that indicates insulin production.
Faustman said it's not clear why BCG didn't appear to help one of those treated with it, but, she added, at the end of the study, the individual's level of C-peptide began to increase.
She also said it's not yet certain whether more frequent doses or higher doses would be needed to restore more pancreatic function, but it may matter how long someone has had the disease.
Faustman said, however, that no matter how long someone has had the disease, they'll likely get some function back.
"We may only restore 5, 10, 20, 50 or 60 percent of function -- we just don't know yet -- but any restoration of C-peptide helps to prevent diabetes complications," she said.
One expert said the finding was important, but many questions remain.
"This study shows that by increasing TNF, they can induce the death of the autoreactive T-cells that destroy the cells that make insulin, and they transiently increase C-peptide levels," said Dr. Spyros Mezitis,
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