It sounds too good to be true, but there might be a day that Type 1 diabetes can be reversed with a simple vaccine.
Scientists at Stanford University are investigating a vaccine that would suppress the immune system of diabetics (rather than over-stimulating it). This would protect the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
"We want to eliminate just the immune cells that attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas," said Dr. Lawrence Steinman, immunologist and senior author of the study.
Why It Might Work
In Type 1 diabetes, the body's ability to produce insulin is stunted when a person's immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce it. The vaccine would protect the insulin-producing cells.
Animal trials went well, and researchers have already moved on to human trials. Those taking the vaccine had improved the number of cells and C-peptide levels that could damage insulin-producing cells. Those taking placebos only had modest changes.
"It's a small study with preliminary findings," said Dr. Hertzel Gerstein, an endocrinologist at McMaster University in Ontario. "It could or could not translate into anything clinically relevant. But certainly this holds some promise ... there is potential for protecting people from the ravages of this disease in the long run."
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