Almost half of type 1 diabetics still produce insulin

by Barbara Hewitt on June 26, 2017

Almost half of people with type 1 diabetes still produce insulin for at least 10 years after being diagnosed, new research has found.

The discovery by a team of scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden gives hope that ways of harnessing this may lead to future treatments for the currently incurable condition.


Until now it was thought that type 1 diabetes meant full loss of a patients’ insulin production. However, by the use of sophisticated insulin assays that have been introduced in recent years, this has now been shown to not be true.

In the study more than one hundred type 1 diabetes patients at Uppsala University Hospital were investigated and the researchers found that almost half of the adult patients that have had type 1 diabetes for at least 10 years still produced some insulin.

The study showed striking differences in the immune system between patients with full loss of their insulin production and patients that still produced some insulin.

For example, people with remaining insulin production had much higher blood levels of interleukin-35, a recently discovered anti-inflammatory signal protein of the immune system. They also had many more immune cells that produce interleukin-35 and dampen immune attacks.

It is still not known if the patients had higher levels of interleukin-35 already at the onset of their disease, or if those levels had increased over the years, stopping immune attacks towards the insulin producing cells as a result.

A previous study by the same research group has shown that both patients newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and patients with long standing disease on average have lower levels of interleukin-35 when compared to healthy individuals.

The previous study also showed that diabetes development could be prevented, and that fully developed diabetes could be reversed, through interleukin-35 treatment in animal models with type 1 diabetes.

The study report suggests that the results may increase the interest to develop interleukin-35 into a drug for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

The discovery that almost half of the patients with type 1 diabetes have some remaining insulin production also makes it attractive to let the patients test new treatments that can induce regeneration of their remaining insulin producing cells. Such a study has now begun at Uppsala University Hospital.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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