A Future Type 1 Vaccine?
In type 1 diabetes, certain immune cells malfunction and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Researchers have taken a step toward taming the wayward immune cells with a vaccine. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a Food and Drug Administration–approved vaccine for the prevention of tuberculosis that raises levels of a protein called tumor necrosis factor in the body. In earlier studies, this protein was found to kill only those immune cells that harm beta cells, leaving the overall immune system healthy. In the current small study, six participants who'd had type 1 diabetes for an average of 15 years took either two low-dose injections of BCG or a placebo. Those who received BCG started making more insulin over the 20-week study; the placebo had no effect. This suggests that beta cells can regenerate themselves if protected from the killer immune cells' constant onslaught. While the increases in insulin production were temporary, the results demonstrate the possibility of treating type 1 with a vaccine. More research is needed to figure out the best timing and dosage of a potential vaccine.
Source: PLoS ONE, August 2012