A clinical trial studying a novel vaccine has shown promising results as a new type of treatment for people with Type 1 diabetes. The vaccine utilizes modified DNA to close off specific sections of the immune system that counters the effects of the disease.
Conventional vaccines work to boost the immune response to a virus by injecting a genetically modified version of the disease into the body. The experimental Type 1 diabetes vaccine works in an opposite manner, by turning off areas of the immune response.
Type 1 diabetesis a chronic autoimmune disease in which the pancreas produces too little or no insulin. Patients must manage the condition by regularly checking their blood sugar levels and receiving insulin injections every day for the rest of their lives.
The vaccine was tested on 80 patients with Type 1 diabetes who were undergoing insulin therapy. The patients received weekly injections of the vaccine during a 12-week period. Researchers measured the participants’ beta cell function for insulin production at the beginning of the trial, then at five weeks, 15 weeks, and six, nine 12, 18 and 24 months after starting the vaccine.
After starting the vaccinations, the patients’ insulin levels improved compared to patients who had taken a placebo. Researchers say that while the vaccine cannot necessarily cure patients of their Type 1 diabetes, it could significantly reduce the number of insulin shots they take during the day.
The study was published in the June 26 issue of Science Translational Medicine.