For people who develop type 1 diabetes, the autoimmune attack on beta cells actually starts up to ten years before diabetes is diagnosed, when autoantibodies first appear in the blood and begin attacking the beta cells.
Research has suggested that swallowing an insulin pill once daily might delay type 1 by four years in some people with autoantibodies in their blood, possibly because insulin digested in the stomach “quiets” the immune system. A clinical study to prevent or delay type 1 by using oral insulin in this manner has recently been announced by the NIH: Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, an NIH-funded network of researchers, is conducting the study across more than 100 medical centers.
Another clinical trial is underway in Australia and New Zealand to test an insulin nasal spray as a possible vaccine against type 1 diabetes. The trial will enroll 300 children and young adults with a family history of the disease who have antibodies that identify them as being at higher risk. The patients will use the insulin spray once weekly for a year and will then be followed for four years to see if they develop type 1 diabetes.
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