Immune boost procedure could free type 1 diabetics from daily injections

by Barbara Hewitt on November 27, 2015

Boosting the immune system can increase insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes, potentially putting an end to the daily grind of injections, scientists have found.

A new study by researchers at the University of California shows how they were able to restore insulin production for up to a year by using millions of T-reg cells which make insulin, preventing the need for daily jabs.

Scientists LabType 1 diabetes attacks insulin secreting cells in the pancreas. Healthy people have billions of ‘peacekeeping’ cells called T-regs which protect insulin making cells from the immune system, but people with type 1 diabetes do not have enough of them.

An initial trial of 14 people found that T-regs can be removed from the body, increased by 1,500 times in a laboratory and infused back into the bloodstream to restore normal function.

“This could be a game-changer. By using T-regs to re-educate the immune system, we may be able to really change the course of this disease,” said Dr Jeffrey Bluestone, professor in metabolism and endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “We expect T-regs to be an important part of diabetes therapy in the future.”

Bluestone added that not only does the treatment stop the need for regular insulin injections, but it prevents the disease progressing, which could save sufferers from blindness and amputation in later life.

In the study doctors removed around two cups of blood containing around two to four million T-reg cells from the 14 patients aged between 18 and 43 who had been recently diagnosed with diabetes. Their T-reg cells were separated from other cells and replicated in a growth medium, before being infused back into the blood.

Child psychologist Mary Rooney, 39, who was diagnosed with type diabetes in 2011, was the first trial participant, and said the therapy had freed her from the daily grind of injections.

“After weeks of losing weight, always being thirsty, having blurry vision that would come and go, and generally feeling rundown, I knew something wasn’t right. Type 1 diabetes was the furthest from my mind, though,” said Rooney.

“Initially, I was in a state of shock. I didn’t realise that you could be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an adult,’ said the researcher at the University of California, who soon learned that the institution was looking for patients for the T-reg trial, and asked to be enrolled. “By being that first patient, I knew I was taking a chance. And I have to be honest, I was scared. But I liked the fact that this experimental treatment involved using my own regulatory T-cells, which would be expanded in a lab and then re-infused. The theory behind this study really made sense to me. The T-reg intervention frees people like me from the daily grind of insulin therapy and lifelong fear of complication.”


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

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ivan June 8, 2018 at 5:05 am

I hope is come true.

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