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Pioneering immunotherapy shows promise for diabetes

10 August 2017
Diabetes treatment

It may be possible to ‘retrain’ the immune system to slow the progression of type 1 diabetes, according to results of a clinical trial published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers leading the MonoPepT1De trial at King’s College London and Cardiff University observed noticeable changes in the behaviour of the immune systems of type 1 diabetes patients that had been injected with peptides, small fragments of the protein molecules found in the beta cells of the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetes develops when a patient’s immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without treatment the number of beta cells will slowly decrease and the body will no longer be able to maintain normal blood sugar (blood glucose) levels.

When someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they still typically have between 15% and 20% of their beta cells. We wanted to see if we could protect these remaining cells by retraining the immune system to stop attacking them. We still have a long way to go, but these early results suggest we are heading in the right direction. The peptide technology used in our trial is not only appears to be safe for patients at this stage, but it also has a noticeable effect on the immune system.”

Lead author, Professor Mark Peakman, Life Sciences and Medicine 

There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, which can affect major organs in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. The UK has one of the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world with 400,000 people currently living with the condition.

“It was encouraging to see that people who receive the treatment needed less insulin to control their blood glucose levels, suggesting that their pancreas was working better,” commented Professor Colin Dayan from Cardiff University.

Following the success of the MonoPepT1De trial, which was supported by the NIHR BRC at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College London, King’s and UCB Biopharma (a Belgian Biopharmaceutical company) are collaborating on a next generation product – MultipepT1De – in a Phase 1b safety study.

UCB has acquired exclusive licenses from King’s College London to MonopepT1De and MultipepT1De worldwide.

More information on this story is available here.

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