More studies needed to see if it can benefit people with the disease
THURSDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- Canadian researchers have successfully reversed type 1 diabetes in mice using a new vaccine technology that appears to solely target the immune system cells responsible for the disease.
"The body has built-in mechanisms that try to counter disease progression, and we now have a mechanism that can be [used] to selectively blunt an immune response without causing a systemic response," said the study's senior author, Dr. Pere Santamaria, a professor at the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre at the University of Calgary in Alberta.
What's more, Santamaria said, the technique developed for the diabetes vaccine may be applicable to other autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
So far, the research has only been conducted in mice. "We don't yet know if it will work in humans, but we're very excited and think this offers hope," said Santamaria.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. That means that the body's immune system, which usually targets invading unwanted cells, such as bacteria, mistakenly destroys healthy cells. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This knocks out the body's ability to produce insulin, the hormone that helps convert blood sugar to energy for cells in the body. So, people with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin multiple times a day, every day, to stay alive.
"Autoimmune diseases, like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by an overactive immune system. Normally, the immune system helps us fend off cancer and infection, but in some people, it becomes overaggressive," Santamaria explained.
Although there are medications available that can dampen the entire immune response, these medications can create additional
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