clinical trial

Study underway to see if insulin powder can prevent development of type 1 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on September 7, 2018

An important clinical trial is getting underway in the UK which aims to find out if giving insulin powder to babies at a high genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes can help prevent them from developing the condition.

In a world first, the NHS and the University of Oxford will lead the study aimed at preventing the disease for which there is no cure. It is thought that about one in every 100 babies has genes that put them at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Clinical Trial

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The heel prick blood test that is routinely done on newborns to spot other conditions could also detect genes that indicate they are at risk of type 1 diabetes and they could them be recruited for the trial

The scientists aim to screen 30,000 babies to find sufficient newborns for the trial and the idea is to train their immune systems by giving them powdered insulin to offer life-long protection.

‘New-born screening has been very effective in a detecting a number of rare conditions such as phenylketonuria, sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis as well as inherited metabolic diseases. Knowing that there is an increased risk of type 1 diabetes can help us to identify babies that might ultimately benefit from the trial,’ said Dr Manu Vatish, consultant in obstetrics at the University of Oxford.

Dr Matthew Snape, paediatric consultant at the University, explained that POInT is the first ever study aimed at primary prevention of type 1 diabetes, and in its approach represents an enormous breakthrough.

‘Type 1 diabetes is a common, lifelong and challenging illness, preventing children and their families from having to live with diabetes and its threat of complications such as blindness, kidney or heart disease would be fantastic,’ he said.

There is currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. The condition develops when the immune system recognises molecules, including insulin, as dangerous, and sets out to destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

The screening is available for all babies, not just those with a family connection to type 1 diabetes and parents of babies found to have a higher risk of type 1 diabetes will then be offered the chance to take part in the study.

Half of the participants will receive insulin powder, and the other half a placebo powder. This is so that researchers can test how effective the insulin powder treatment is in preventing type 1 diabetes.

The work is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research, the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, Diabetes UK and the Wellcome Trust, as well as the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust.

‘This is a huge endeavour, so we would encourage women living in the South East who think they might be eligible to find out more. Research like this can’t happen without the incredible people who take part,’ said Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK.

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