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Is There a Way to Prevent Type 1 Diabetes?

Is there a way to prevent or delay type 1? Researchers may have found the key.

Researchers at The University of Virginia School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University have been working on a new therapy. Their process restores the immune system’s natural state using a concentrated form of the antibody human immunoglobulin, or IgM.

These scientists can predict who is more likely to develop type 1 and then step in with the specialized immunotherapy. For people who already have type 1, this therapy could eliminate the need to take immunosuppressant drugs after receiving islet transplantation. A pancreatic islet transplantation is a new experimental treatment for type 1 in which pancreatic islet cells are transplanted into someone with type 1, including beta cells that make insulin.    

Human immunoglobulin, or IgM, would in essence reprogram the immune system, so that a person would never develop type 1. UVA transplant surgeon Dr. Kenneth Brayman and researchers have found that people with type 1 are deficient in IgM. 

The researchers are looking into exactly when and how type 1 develops, and what the threshold is where there are no longer enough beta cells to make insulin, so that they can stop it before it happens.

The researchers are seeking a pharmaceutical partner that can make IgM so that they can use it for tests in humans. After creating IgM, the researchers will need FDA approval before conducting human trials.

What is type 1 diabetes

Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes affects more than 3 million Americans. Only 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, but the disease is a chronic illness which requires lifelong management. The average age of diagnosis is 14, though a type 1 diabetes diagnosis can happen as early as age 5. Type 1 diabetes can be caused by genetics or a virus that attacks the pancreas, and is sometimes accompanied by other autoimmune diseases.


How type 1 diabetes works

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas creates little to no insulin for the body to convert sugar into energy. When this happens, sugar builds up in the bloodstream and can damage blood vessels throughout the body. Keeping blood sugar within a healthy range is crucial for type 1 diabetes, and people with type 1 diabetes will have to take insulin through injections or a pump.

Key takeaways

The new breakthrough therapy may also be beneficial for other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and eczema. The researchers hope to start human trials in the next few years in order to potentially prevent type 1 diabetes.