Promising Future for Type I Diabetes Vaccine

Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, has long mystified scientists. Although research during the last few decades pinpointed its cause - the autoimmune attack of insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreas - its prevention has remained a mystery. The use of nano-engineered vaccines, however, may finally offer clues to preventing this disease that affects nearly 1 million people in the United States.

Dr. Pere Santamaria at the University of Calgary has led a team of his colleagues in the development of a vaccine that may prevent the occurrence of the disease in humans. The nanovaccine, which targets so-called 'weak t-cells' that wrongly signal the body's immune system to attack the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, works in mice to prevent or even reverse the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes.

Researchers at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh already have begun phase I human clinical trials to determine the safety of this nanovaccine. If successful, phase II trials will look at its efficacy at restoring insulin production in children with Type 1 diabetes. Similar nano-engineered vaccines also may prove useful with the treatment of other autoimmune disorders like arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

-compiled by Andrew Matz

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