Research into Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine Takes Leap Forward

Inhibiting beta cell infection from enteroviruses may prevent the development of type 1 diabetes.

Researchers have long searched for ways to prevent type 1 diabetes, in which insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed and can no longer regulate blood glucose levels. Currently, there are no prophylactic or curative treatment options.

Previously, investigators at the University of Tampere developed a vaccine after the discovery of enteroviruses belonging to the group B coxsackieviruses related to diabetes, according to a press release.

“Already, it is known that the vaccine is effective and safe on mice. The developing process has now taken a significant leap forward as the next phase is to study the vaccine in humans,” said lead researcher Heikki Hyöty, MD, PhD.

In the first phase, the candidate vaccine will be tested in a few adults to determine if it is safe to move on to further studies in humans. In the second phase, the vaccine will be explored in children to determine safety and efficacy against enteroviruses, according to the university.

The goal of the third phase is to determine if the candidate vaccine can prevent type 1 diabetes in patients; however, the researchers note that this phase of the experiment may be long and can take up to 8 years before producing final results.

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune disorder that is commonly diagnosed during childhood. The condition is becoming increasingly more common and can place a significant burden on public health and quality of life.

The researchers previously found that enteroviruses infect insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, which results in permanent damage that may cause type 1 diabetes, according to the release.

The thought is that if the damage can be prevented, it can mitigate type 1 diabetes, according to the authors. If effective in humans, the vaccine may effectively put an end to new cases of type 1 diabetes, which would provide significant benefit to patients and the healthcare system.

“The aim is to develop a vaccine that could prevent a significant number of type 1 diabetes cases. Additionally, the vaccine would protect from infections caused by enteroviruses such as the common cold, myocarditis, meningitis, and ear infections,” Dr Hyöty said. “However, in light of current research, the vaccine could not be used to cure existing diabetes.”