Scientists from the University of California have come forth with a groundbreaking research that could enhance the quality of life of Type I diabetics who otherwise need daily injections of insulin: they succeeded in boosting the immune system thereby restoring the production of the hormone in the body. The paper is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Type I diabetes is characterised by a lack of T-regs which are cells that protect insulin-making cells in the pancreas from the immune system which attacks the body’s own cells instead of only attacking foreign antigens. Consequently, the function of the pancreas is impaired, and the hormone is not secreted adequately. Patients of type I diabetes, therefore, sometimes need daily doses of insulin to maintain blood sugar level under a certain range.
In an attempt to counter this, the researchers removed the T-regs from the body and increased them by 1,500 times in laboratory. Thereafter, the cells were administered into the bloodstream of 14 volunteers.
The treatment was found to have positive effects, and eliminated the need for regular injections of the hormone. Furthermore, it halted the progression of the disease, and could hopefully avoid situations where patients become blind or have to amputate organs.
The results also demonstrate that the therapy is safe, and long-lasting (for around a year).
One of the authors, Dr Jeffrey Bluestone, Professor in Metabolism and Endocrinology, explains that they have used the T-regs to “re-educate the immune system”. They believe the cells will constitute an essential part of future therapies for diabetics.