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Trials of Type 1 Diabetes Vaccines Bring Mixed Results
Date:6/28/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- A vaccine developed to prevent the progression of type 1 diabetes shows some promise, while another designed to alter insulin production fails, according to the results of two new studies.

The results of both studies were slated to be presented Tuesday at the American Diabetes Association annual meeting in San Diego.

Type 1 diabetes often appears early in life and is thought to be an immune system disorder involving the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. About 5 percent of diabetic people have the type 1 form of the disease.

For the first vaccine study, a drug called DiaPep27 -- developed to prevent the destruction of beta cells -- was tested in newly diagnosed diabetics.

The study focused on a specific protein, called the "heat shock protein," produced in type 1 diabetes.

"When presented to the immune system, [this protein] causes the immune system to attack beta cells," lead researcher of the first study, Dr. Itamar Raz, professor of medicine and head of the Hadassah Diabetes Center in Jerusalem, explained in a Sunday afternoon press conference.

The researchers believe that the "heat shock" protein activates immune system cells called T cells, which then destroy beta cells. However, it is thought that one can change destructive T cells into protective T cells, the researchers said.

In their work, Raz's team tweaked "heat shock" proteins to see if they could be made to protect beta cells from being attacked by T cells. This approach had been shown to work with mice with a form of type 1 diabetes, Raz noted.

In the current phase 2 trial, 100 patients recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes were given DiaPep277. The vaccine worked, protecting beta cells in the same way it did in mice, the researchers say.

"When you inject the drug into the patient you activate the T cells to be
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