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Trial of Type 1 diabetes 'vaccine'

Posted on 06/02/2013
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Preventing Type 1 diabetes could one day become a reality if clinical trials of a new “vaccine” prove successful.

Experts from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine and King’s College London have teamed up with leading Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF and the Australian Health and Medical Research Council in a clinical trial which aims to slow or halt the process that destroys the insulin-making cells in Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes arises when a patient’s immune system attacks the body’s own insulin-making cells. The resulting lack of insulin is life-threatening unless treated with replacement therapy. Professor Mark Peakman, from the Division of Immunology, Infection and Inflammatory Disease at King’s, who developed the vaccine approach, said “In my laboratory we spent many years gaining a better understanding of what goes wrong with the balance of the immune system in patients developing Type 1 diabetes. We eventually hit upon the idea that we could try to revert the damaging response by inducing a protective one; so it’s a vaccine with a difference.”  

Colin Dayan, Professor of Clinical Diabetes and Metabolism at Cardiff, who leads the trial said: “We believe that this immune-based therapy can slow or stop the body from damaging its own insulin-making cells in the pancreas. Research to date shows that the treatment is safe, but we are in the early days and need to learn more about how it works in people with newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetes. If effective, we can develop further treatments for individuals who are at risk of developing this type of diabetes later in life.” 

Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 1 in 250 of the UK population and is on the increase, especially in young children. Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes is life changing and means that you have to have multiple insulin injections daily for the rest of your life. Some people experience poor health and quality of life as a result, and the associated ill health places a considerable burden on NHS resources. 

Professor Dayan is actively recruiting into the study. “We are looking for adult volunteers who have been recently diagnosed with Type 1 and may have only just started insulin treatment. Taking part involves having vaccination-type injections under the skin every two weeks for 6 months and giving blood and urine samples.” The trial is currently recruiting at four UK hospitals: University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff; Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London; Bristol Royal Infirmary and Royal Victoria Hospital, Newcastle. The trial, called MonoPepT1De receives additional support via the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals and King’s College London.

Kris Wood, 26, from Holloway, North London was diagnosed last March after experiencing symptoms of type 1, including excessive thirst, drinking up to 10 litres of water a day and losing nearly two stone in weight. Kris believed that his sister saved his life by insisting he got urgent medical attention. 

Following his diagnosis he was invited to join the MonoPepT1De trial at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Newcastle in June and was able to continue to participate in the project at Guy’s and St Thomas’ following his move to London.

Kris said; “After being diagnosed I wanted to do all I could to understand type 1 diabetes and I was excited to hear about this research. I have been involved with the study since June and have noticed some slight changes in the control of my type 1, although at this stage it’s too early to tell if this is directly linked to the trial. All the staff involved have been fantastic and it has been great to have access to experts in the field who are willing to answer any questions or concerns I have. I would really encourage others to find out more about any research studies they can join, in order to get that one step closer to finding the cure. I know that this study couldn’t take place without JDRF’s support, and all the people up and down the country who raise funds for the charity.”

Professor Dayan says “Our ultimate hope is to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes. We need to offer all people with diabetes the opportunity to participate in research. Information from this trial combined with further studies building on this could improve quality of life & long term health and benefit for children and adults with Type 1 diabetes and future generations.”

For further information on participating in the study, please email diabetesresearch@cardiff.ac.uk

Notes to editors: 

Further information or for media interview, please contact: 

Emma Reynolds, PR Manager (Health) at King’s College London, on 0207 848 4334, email emma.reynolds@kcl.ac.uk

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