What if we could stop the body’s immune system from attacking the pancreas in the first stages of type 1 diabetes? What if we could keep the pancreas producing insulin, all the while helping it recover from the autoimmune barrage?
We’d have a cure for type 1, that’s what.
A new treatment being developed by Andromeda Biotech is being tested in multiple locations across England. It’s also being tested in North America and Israel, among other places. Researchers hope to have it available within three years.
The basic approach is as simple as the process described above — blocking that first autoimmune attack. The drug would be most effective when used in the early stages of type 1 diabetes, before cells in the pancreas have been entirely destroyed. Eventually, scientists hope, patients could see a full recovery.
The treatment is based on a discovery by Professor Irun Cohen of Israel’s Weizmann Institute. A protein he created, called a “long-chain heat-shock peptide,” forms of the basis of the drug. Andromeda is focused on developing the product, which it calls DiaPep277.
“We have proved in earlier trials that our compound stops the immune system attacking the pancreas,” said Shlomo Dagan, a researcher with Andromeda Biotech in Israel. “There is evidence to suggest that using the drug over a period of time, maybe a couple of years, will allow the pancreas to recover enough to make more insulin. In that situation the patient could stop injecting insulin.”
For now, it seems, we’re waiting to see how the treatment works in clinical trials. In a couple of years, the world for newly diagnosed type 1 diabetics could look a lot different.