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New drug could stop onslaught of juvenile diabetes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

British scientists are testing a drug that could stop children from developing diabetes. Youngsters could conceivably be screened for vulnerability at school, and then given the drug to keep them healthy. Charities said the pioneering work could bring us a "step closer to a world without diabetes."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Delaying the onset of childhood or Type 1, diabetes could have huge benefits in terms of long-term health. Type 1 diabetics typically rely on multiple injections of insulin a day to keep them alive. Complications that may arise in later life from the condition range from amputations to blindness.

The condition is caused when the immune system kills cells in the pancreas which make insulin, the hormone which converts sugar into energy. Diabetes can take 20 years off the average person's lifespan -- and the number of sufferers is soaring worldwide.

Unlike Type 2 diabetes, which is also on the rise, it is not linked to poor diet and obesity.

The new drug tries to bring the immune system back under control by boosting numbers of a second, protective type of immune cell. Developed at King's College London and Cardiff University, a drug trial is now under way, 24 diabetics will be given vaccination-type injections every two weeks for six months.
 
An earlier trial found the drug to be safe and to produce "encouraging" changes in the immune system.

"With prevention there is everything to play for," King's researcher Mark Peakman says. Another option would be to slow or delay progression of the condition in those who have recently been diagnosed.

Much more research is needed, meaning the treatment is five to ten years away from widespread use.

Scientists say that the treatment is not expected to help those who have had the condition for years and will be of no benefit to those with Type 2 diabetes.

"We are facing something of an epidemic of Type 1 diabetes," Professor Peakman, who is collaborating with Colin Dayan, of Cardiff University says.

"Once you have it as a child, you have got it for life and it leads to complications and obviously it is not a very nice thing to live with." Peakman added that more volunteers are needed for the trial, between the ages of 18 and 40 and have recently been diagnosed with the condition.

"If this drug works, it would mean that there will be a future generation for whom Type 1 diabetes is no longer a risk," Sarah Johnson, of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is part funding the study says.

"But it is early days. This is not something that is going to happen tomorrow."


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