By: Radha McLean
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill may have just proven that certain types of vaccines can help prevent and treat type 1 diabetes.
Roland Tisch, PhD, and colleagues experimented with vaccines using plasmid DNA, genetic material that is taken from bacteria. According to research published in the February 1 issue of the Journal of Immunology, the vaccines successfully prevented and mitigated the progression of diabetes in mice.
The researchers injected mice with the vaccines three times in three weeks. The majority of them remained diabetes-free for over a year.
The vaccines were engineered to re-establish the balance between two immune cells-Th1 and Th2. With type 1, Th1 cells malfunction by attacking insulin-producing beta cells. The cells in the vaccines were designed to act like two different proteins, one that activates islet beta cell-detecting T cells, and the other that stops the Th1 cells from attacking when they shouldn’t.
“Our approach was relatively simple,” said Dr. Tisch in an interview with News Rx. “The vaccines allowed us to selectively suppress the body’s auto-immune response while leaving the remainder of the immune response intact.”
Tisch also indicated how researchers anticipate that the vaccines will be used: “One of the appealing features of plasmid DNA vaccinesÉis that the DNA persists for long periodsÉ Ideally, human patients might require injection of plasmid DNA vaccines only every year or two.”