Type 1 diabetes vaccine hailed as 'significant step'
It may be possible to reverse type 1 diabetes by training a patient's own immune system to stop attacking their body, an early trial suggests.
Their immune system destroys the cells that make insulin, the hormone needed to control blood sugar levels.
A study in 80 patients, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, showed a vaccine could retrain their immune system.
Experts described the results as a "significant step".
Normally a vaccine teaches the immune system to attack bacteria or viruses that cause disease, such as the polio virus.
We're very excited by these results, which suggest that the immunologist's dream of shutting down just a single subset of dysfunctional immune cells without wrecking the whole immune system may be attainableProf Lawrence Steinman, Stanford University Medical Centre
Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Centre used a vaccine with the opposite effect - to make the immune system cease its assault.
In patients with type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys beta cells in the pancreas. This means the body is unable to produce enough insulin and regular injections of the hormone are needed throughout life.
It is a different disease to type 2 diabetes, which can be caused by an unhealthy diet.
The vaccine was targeted to the specific white blood cells which attack beta cells. After patients were given weekly injections for three months, the levels of those white blood cells fell.
Blood tests also suggested that beta cell function was better in patients given the vaccine than in those treated only with insulin Continue reading