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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Diabetes Channel
Reported August 10, 2012

New Hope For Type 1 Diabetes Sufferers

(Ivanhoe Broadcast Newswire) - People with type 1 diabetes have had to accept that for the remainder of their lives they will need to monitor and control their disease. That is, unless a cure is found.

A recent study confirmed that the use of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine can restore insulin secretion in human patients with type 1 diabetes and possibly lead to a cure.

The study, led by Denise Faustman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Immunobiology Laboratory, found in prior research with mice that elevating tumor necrosis factor (TNF) levels can destroy insulin-autoreactive T-cells and allow pancreatic islets to regenerate. The increased TNF levels actually cured type 1 diabetes in the mice, though the researchers needed to then find a safe way to do this in humans since high doses of TNF are toxic.

Luckily the BCG vaccine, a generic drug approved for vaccination against tuberculosis and for the treatment of bladder cancer, is able to safely raise TNF levels.

Researchers had six long-term type 1 diabetes patients randomly assigned to take either two doses of BCG or a placebo placed four weeks apart for twenty weeks. After measuring the levels of C-peptide (a marker of pancreatic insulin secretion), insulin-autoreactive T cells, of an autoantibody, and of regulatory T-cells that help control the immune response, the researchers found results in two out of the three patients treated with the BCG that suggest a restoration of insulin production.

The researchers were surprised to see the same results in one of the patients given the placebo who coincidently developed infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, which is known to also induce expression of TNF. However, they believe higher or more frequent doses of BCG than what was used in this study will be needed for a long-term solution to type 1 diabetes.

"We are trying to create a regime that will actually reverse type 1 diabetes in people who are living with the disease," Dr. Faustman was quoted as saying.

As the study now moves into a Phase II trial, other recent trials in Italy and Turkey have found that the BCG vaccine could also decrease disease activity, prevent progression of brain lesions in advanced multiple sclerosis, and even possibly prevent diabetes onset in children.

The study points to a promising future for those living with type 1 diabetes.

"These are very impressive results," Paul Burn, Ph.D., was quoted as saying.

Source: PLOS ONE, August, 2012

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