In a first, scientists have developed a treatment that can delay type 1 diabetes by two or more years among people who are at high risk.
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The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved treatment with an anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody (teplizumab).
Researchers from Yale University in the US enrolled 76 participants ages 8-49 who were relatives of people with type 1 diabetes, had at least two types of diabetes-related autoantibodies (proteins made by the immune system), and abnormal glucose (sugar) tolerance.
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Type 1 diabetes develops when the immune system’s T cells mistakenly destroy the body’s own insulin-producing beta cells. Insulin is needed to convert glucose into energy. Teplizumab targets T cells to lessen the destruction of beta cells.
“Previous clinical research found that teplizumab effectively slows the loss of beta cells in people with recent onset clinical type 1 diabetes, but the drug had never been tested in people who did not have clinical disease,” said Kevan C Herold, of Yale University.
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Faster progression of type 1 diabetes is associated with a highly active immune system, which may explain the impact of immune system-modulating drugs like teplizumab. The research team also cautioned that the study had limitations, including the small number of participants, their lack of ethnic diversity, and that all participants were relatives of people with type 1 diabetes, potentially limiting the ability to translate the study broadly.