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Nasal spray vaccine could prevent type 1 diabetes


June 14, 2011

Trials of a nasal spray to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes have been promising (Image: robin_24 via Flickr)

Trials of a nasal spray to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes have been promising (Image: robin_24 via Flickr)

A nasal spray vaccine currently being trialed in Australia could prevent the development of type 1 diabetes. Previous research showed that the nasal vaccine was successful in preventing the disease in mice, and now the results of a study involving 52 adults with early type 1 diabetes has provided encouraging evidence that it could also be effective in preventing the disease humans.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system attacks and kills the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The subsequent lack of insulin leads to increased blood and urine glucose, which can result in heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and premature death if left untreated, with the most common treatment being the daily injection of insulin.

Although the 52 participants in the study had early type 1 diabetes and had evidence of immunity to insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, they were not yet at the stage of requiring insulin injections. For the study, the participants were given either the nasal vaccine or a placebo for 12 months.

When administered through the nasal passages, the insulin vaccine stimulates the immune system present in the mucosal linings and works to desensitize the whole immune system to insulin so that the immune system's white blood cells are prevented from attacking insulin in the beta cells.

"The results showed that the vaccine allowed the immune system to restore immune tolerance to insulin," said Professor Len Harrison of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia. "When subsequently given insulin by injection, the participants who had received the nasal insulin vaccine were found to be desensitized to insulin."

The researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Royal Melbourne Hospital say the results of the study indicate they are on the right track to finding a vaccine for type 1 diabetes and the same approach could also be adapted to other autoimmune diseases.

"The nasal vaccine approach, if shown to be successful in human type 1 diabetes, could also be tested with different vaccines for the prevention of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis," added Professor Harrison.

The Type 1 Diabetes Prevention Trial, which was previously known as the intranasal insulin trial, INIT II), began in 2006 and is now halfway through the testing phase. Following the encouraging results of the study, hopes are high a nasal vaccine for type 1 diabetes could be available in as little as two years.

Details of the research was published in the April 2011 issue of the journal Diabetes.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

I sincerely hope to see this on the market soon...and I hope that the drug companies don\'t crush this to make more money.

Racqia Dvorak

@Racqia Dvorak I completely agree: and it should fall on the shoulders of world governments to either 1) subsidize this sort of important beneficial medical research which can save lives, 2) subsidize the distribution of this sort of product if and when the trials find that it is effective, 3) legally regulate either the maximum profit companies are allowed to make on any given product either as a product of the development cost, or as a time moratorium on legally being able to sell the product for more than it\'s per unit production cost. Or, best yet, as a combination of all three. I\'m sure that some of this is already being done, but yet the cost of many drugs and procedures (particularly aids and cancer drugs!) are prohibitive for millions of people, especially in the developing world, but even in the \'west\'. Profiteering on the threat of \'if you don\'t buy this product, you sill die\' is unethical and shameful!

Jeremy Nasmith

More like 2015... They haven\'t done a large test study yet!

Stuart Halliday
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