Immunotherapy has been used successfully for years to reduce common environmental allergies in patients. Now, researchers suggest that the same mechanism that shuts off an allergic response may be useful in quelling more severe autoimmune conditions as well.
New research out of Cardiff University School of Medicine employs a treatment called proinsulin peptide immunotherapy (PIT), which has shown some early promise in reducing the effects of type 1 diabetes for newly diagnosed patients. The study looked at the effects of immunotherapy in reducing damage to a particular, critical component in the development of type I diabetes.
Immunotherapy and How it Could Be Used
Like allergies, type I diabetes is caused by an inappropriate immune response to one’s own tissues, specifically the beta cells of the pancreas. As the immune system creates antibodies that target these cells, their subsequent destruction results in a loss of insulin production.
The goal of PIT therapy is to halt the attack on beta cells by restoring the function of regulatory T-cells that intervene in autoimmune processes. Cardiff University’s Dr. Mohammad Alhadj Ali and his team divided study participants into three groups, the first of which received high doses of PIT every two weeks.
The second group received an intermediate dose alternated with saline, and the third, an initial high dose of PIT followed by saline only. Blood samples were collected at three-months intervals for a year to evaluate to insulin production after therapy. Success was measured by assessing the levels of C-Peptide, a byproduct of insulin production.
The results were promising, with the highest dose treatment group showing the highest level of C-Peptide throughout the duration of the study. This study’s conclusion is very encouraging in demonstrating the effects of immunotherapy on type 1 diabetes.
Further in-depth research will need to be conducted before a conclusion can be taken, however. Although this therapy excludes patients with already-extensive tissue damage, the therapy could be used as either an intervention for newly diagnosed patients who have incurred little beta cell damage or as a preventative therapy for high-risk individuals who have not yet developed the disease.
Current research results are available in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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