University of Florida investigators Brian S. Wilson, MD, PhD, and Mark Atkinson, PhD, have teamed up with colleagues at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., to devise a new combination therapy that reverses established type 1 diabetes in mice. The findings, which recently appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine, set the stage for the potential development of a new human therapy for type 1 diabetes.
The only existing therapy that can reverse established Type 1 diabetes is transplantation of a type of pancreatic tissue called islets, which contain the insulin-producing beta cells. But chronic rejection is a big problem with that approach, and the diabetes-reversing effect lasts only about three years. In addition, to get enough cells for each patient, two or three donors have to be found.
Researchers have continued to explore various ways to counteract the body’s attack on insulin-producing cells. They have developed methods to blunt the action of immune system cells against beta cells. And previous experiments have shown that in the early stages of Type 1 diabetes, some insulin-producing cells still exist and can be cajoled into action. But at advanced stages of disease, those cells are mostly destroyed.
The researchers concluded that a dual approach that prevents the immune system from killing beta cells, and, at the same time, replenishes the supply of beta cells was needed.