August 28, 2008

Potential Type 1 Diabetes Therapy Studied

U.S. scientists say they confirmed in human experiments a potential type 1 diabetes therapy that might reverse the disease.

Researchers led by Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital's immunobiology laboratory, confirmed the mechanism behind the potential new therapy. The scientists showed blocking a metabolic pathway regulating the immune system eliminated immune cells that react against a patient's own tissues.

Faustman and her team previously discovered a technique that reversed type 1 diabetes in a mouse model. They said the current study is the first demonstration of the strategy in humans and supports the viability of a phase I clinical trial that is under way.

"Our studies in mice showed that we could selectively kill the defective autoimmune cells that were destroying insulin-producing islets," said Faustman. "These results show that the same selective destruction can occur in human cells and connect what we saw in our animal studies with the protocol we are pursuing in our Phase I clinical trial."

The research is reported in the early online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.