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Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine Could be a Possibility

The need for daily injections could be eliminated by a vaccine. Type 1 diabetes requires lifelong insulin treatment because it is a condition where the body's immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Researchers report a successful trial that involves a vaccine for type 1 diabetes, which may possibly reverse type 1 diabetes by tricking the body's own immune system.

To stop the effects of the immune system by blocking with the use of immunosuppressants, it makes diabetics more vulnerable to infections. This would also leave the body at risk for infection because of suppression to the immune system. However, blocking the cells attack on the pancreas and leaving the rest of the immune system untouched would be an alternative type 1 diabetes therapy.

Researchers Compare New Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine to Placebo

In a clinical trial, researchers compared the vaccine's effects against placebo. The vaccine improved the insulin-producing beta cells' function, but the cell function soon declined after the regular vaccine injections ceased. This made the effects seem only temporary. The scientists believe this means regular vaccine injections would be necessary long-term. Many different substances attack the beta cells of the pancreas. If the vaccine could prevent just one of these pathways, it would help. Positive results are more likely to be seen in long-term clinical research trials.

In this study, participants include 80 adults over the age of 18 who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the previous five years. These people received intramuscular injections of the vaccine, called proinsulin-containing plasmid (BHT-3021), which acted as a control therapy by means of random selection. Participants had injections once weekly for 12 weeks, and two times as many people were given the "vaccine" compared to participants of control.

The diabetic researchers evaluated four BHT-3021 vaccine doses:

  • 0.3mg
  • 1.0mg
  • 3.0mg
  • 6.0 mg

Diabetes Scientists Say Vaccine Will Benefit Type 1 Diabetics

Two key findings were discovered by the researchers. First, C-peptide levels improved relative to placebo at all dose levels during the treatment period and shortly after it. The main difference was noted after 15 weeks of the 1mg vaccine dose. Once the therapy ceased, C-peptide levels began to decline. However, the placebo group showed a steady decrease from day one, regarding the C-peptide levels. Researchers suggest that this showed the vaccine was effective, as well as safe, and regular injections would benefit those with type 1 diabetes.

Based on these results, the diabetes scientists believe that the proinsulin substance reduces the frequency of CD8+ T cells, which preserves C-peptide while the patient receives regular doses of the vaccine. This means the vaccine targets the immune response through a reaction with proinsulin, and preserves the function of the normal body immune system.


For people with diabetes, the actual impact the changes in C-peptide had was unclear. Researchers don't know whether it allowed better control of the participants' blood sugars or had any effect on their individual insulin requirements. These questions require further studies and research to answer. The vaccine is expected to be tested further and on younger subjects.


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