In America, around 1,25 million people suffer from type I diabetes. A vaccine used for tuberculosis 100 years ago, called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, seems to be helpful with diabetes as well. Today, this vaccine is used in treating bladder cancer, and it`s believed to be safe.
Yesterday, during the 75th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, an announcement was made stating that 150 people with advanced type I diabetes will receive the vaccine, as part of an experimental test.
Type 1 diabetes prevents the body to produce insulin, because the immune system is killing the cells which create insulin. T cells are still created, which lead to problems with pancreatic islets where the insulin is produced. The vaccine aims for the T cells and destroys them.
In patients injected with the diabetes vaccine, the levels of the substance “tumor necrosis factor” increased, which destroys the T cells which obstruct insulin production.
Diabetes patients were injected with the vaccine twice in a period of 4 weeks, during the previous trial. The T cells were completely gone and in some people the organism started to produce insulin on its own.
The head of the General Hospital Immunobiology Laboratory in Boston, Dr. Denise Faustman, is thrilled about the results from the BCG vaccine.
“During the preliminary trial, we noticed a statistically important response to BCG, but the final goal is to create a lasting response to the therapy. We will continue working with people suffering from type I diabetes for long. We are not trying just to prevent, but also to treat advanced diabetes cases.”
They will start with a new 5-yeasr trial this summer. Volunteers will be between the age of 18 and 60, subdue to injections twice in a 4-week period, and then 1 injection a year for the next 4 years.
Still, some diabetes experts are not convinced that the vaccine will function. The Assistant professor of endocrinology as the Northwestern University`s Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Sobel explains his reasons of being skeptical.
“For me it`s an exaggeration to say that the vaccine would have an enormous impact on millions of patients with type 1 diabetes in America. We would do anything to preserve or repopulate the beta cell mass of these patients. But we have watched it dwindle, and no one has been able to do anything.”
Only time can tell if there are some chances for development of a functioning treatment for type I diabetes.