Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have used injections of antibodies to rapidly reverse the onset of Type I diabetes in mice genetically bred to develop the disease. Only two injections maintained disease remission indefinitely without harming the immune system.
The findings, to be published in the journal Diabetes this month, suggest for the first time that using a short course of immunotherapy may someday be of value for reversing the onset of Type I diabetes in recently diagnosed people.
Type I diabetes, formerly known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune T cells target and destroy insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
The immune system consists of T cells that are required for maintaining immunity against different bacterial and viral pathogens. In people who develop Type I diabetes, "autoreactive" T cells that actively destroy beta cells are not kept in check as they are in healthy people.