Immunologists at a research institute in Melbourne, Australia, say they have successfully tested a nasal spray that suppresses an immune response in people who are genetically disposed to type 1. The test, performed by scientists at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, is the first time that the spray has been tried on humans.
In type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that has a genetic component, the body begins to develop antibodies that mistakenly attack beta cells. Eventually the antibodies destroy the cells, leaving a person incapable of producing insulin. The spray, which the researchers hope will lead to a vaccine that prevents the onset of type 1, works by blocking the effect of the antibodies that attack the pancreatic beta cells.
The nasal spray, which contains an insulin solution, is being tested on people who have already developed two of the antibodies associated with the onset of type 1. The study participants also have relatives with type 1 and are therefore genetically at greater risk of developing the disease.
The nasal spray is being developed by Australia’s Diabetes Vaccine Development Centre, in collaboration with the New York-based Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The researchers stress that any vaccine that results from their tests will be aimed at preventing, not reversing, type 1.