Those who are suffering with Type 1 diabetes may be able to ditch the needles in the future, thanks to a new treatment that enables patients to produce their own insulin instead of having to inject it. Dr. Lawrence Steinman of Stanford University recently announced that the new treatment has passed its first human test, paving the way for wider use in the future.
The so-called "reverse vaccine" works by suppressing the immune system at the DNA level, which in turn stimulates insulin production. It could stand to be the first DNA-based vaccine approved for human use. "This vaccine is a new concept. It’s shutting off a specific immune response, rather than turning on specific immune responses as conventional vaccines for, say, influenza or polio aim to do," noted Dr. Steinman. The initial human test used 80 patients and was conducted over the course of two years. The study showed that the patients that received the treatment saw a decrease in the activity of cells that destroy insulin in the immune system, when compared to the control group the received a placebo. There were no adverse effects of using the vaccine, claims the study.
The next step in this process is further testing to determine if the treatment is as safe as it appears and it is likely still quite a few years out from public use. But as the study points out, it may be a promising treatment for the approximately 3 million Americans (and likely many more patients across the world) that suffer from Type 1 diabetes.