A new study has made researchers optimistic about slowing the progression of Type 1 Diabetes. The new method, called Antigen-based therapy, is part of a new line of research that aims to modify the immune system.
The findings were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The promising evidence generates hope in treating or even perhaps curing the dreaded disease.
In Type 1 Diabetes patients, the problem lies in the immune system, which has gone awry. It erroneously treats proteins in beta cells as invaders and kills them.
Once the beta cells are destroyed, the pancreas can produce little or no insulin, the hormone that lets the body turn sugar into energy. Such patients would then need to rely on regularinsulin injections.
In contrast, Type 2 Diabetes patients develop a resistance to insulin. Both categories of patients are at risk of developing complications from a stroke, kidney problems and eye diseases.
What the Researchers Did
Researchers in Sweden tested the new method by injecting a protein (the antigen) called GAD, which is normally found in the beta cells, into patients’ lymph nodes near the groin. Lymph nodes are where many immune cells are found.
The rationale behind the test was to see if exposing the immune cells to large amounts of GAD would make them more tolerant of the protein. The GAD would then stop attacking the immune cells.
Only a pilot study has been done, participated in by six people with ages of 20 to 22, who were recently diagnosed with the disease. The researchers checked the patients six to 15 months after the treatment.
The results indicated success in that the patients’ pancreas were stably functioning. There was no decline in them – as may be expected in the usual course of the disease.
The results were described as “exciting” by Dr. Lawrence Steinman, a professor of pediatrics and neurological sciences at Stanford University, who was not involved with the study. For his part, Dr. Johnny Ludvigsson, senior professor of pediatrics at Linköping University and the study’s lead researcher, advised caution.
Larger tests must be conducted. Nonetheless, Dr. Ludvigsson stated that the method has shown “the best efficacy” to date, in slowing diabetes’ progression.
Also a Brighter Outlook for Type 2 Diabetes Patients
Type 2 Diabetes patients, on the other hand, whose number has grown to 415 million people worldwide, now face new remedies. Acarbose is the compound that greatly reduces rising glucose levels that cause negative effects on blood vessels.
T2 Diabetes, as it is more informally known, may result from being overweight, regularly eating unhealthy food, family history, or the combination of any of these factors. As with the other type of Diabetes, the disease ultimately hampers productivity and affects quality life.