A Simple Spray May Stop Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes could be prevented with nasal insulin vaccine

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Thousands of children and adults are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year. What if there was a way to stop this terrible disease? Well, scientists may be closer to a answer.

Researchers showed that a vaccine sprayed into the nose may protect people from getting type 1 diabetes. The nasal vaccine keeps a person's body from rejecting insulin - a hormone that is important to controlling blood sugar.

"A nasal spray could stop type 1 diabetes."

Type 1 diabetes happens when a person's immune system attacks and kills the cells that make insulin. Because of this, people with type 1 diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin every day.

Professor Len Harrison, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia, has been working on finding a vaccine for type 1 diabetes for some years. Previously, he found that the nasal insulin vaccine could prevent type 1 diabetes in mice.

Now, Harrison and colleagues have shown that the vaccine has the potential to stop the disease in humans.

According to Harrison, this most recent study - which is supported by Melbourne Health, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation - shows that researchers are on their way to finding a vaccine for type 1 diabetes.

For their study, the researchers tested the nasal spray vaccine on 52 adults with type 1 diabetes. The participants were in the early stages of the disease, so they were not at the point of needing daily injections of insulin. However, they were showing signs that their immune system was fighting the cells that make insulin.

For 12 months, the participants were given either the nasal spray vaccine or a placebo.

The researchers found that the vaccine helped patients' immune systems tolerate insulin. Harrison explains that the vaccine works by keeping white blood cells (called T cells) from attacking insulin in the beta cells (cells in the pancreas that make insulin).

The vaccine is delivered through the nose, says Harrison, because it would be broken down in the gut if it were delivered through the mouth.

Trials to test the vaccine are still under way. But if the vaccine proves to be successful, a similar approach could be used to test different vaccines for stopping other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. 

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Review Date: 
June 13, 2011
Last Updated:
June 13, 2011