Reversing Type 1 Diabetes in Mice: New nanovaccine innovations have proven successful in reversing the effects of Type 1 diabetes in mice. Is it possible to take the leap from mice achievement to successful human trials? It might if one researcher has his way.
In the scheme of body dynamics you have an immune system that is incredibly complex. If a disease invades your body then immune cells are sent to do battle with the invaders. Sometimes those immune cells take their job pretty seriously. The body is equipped with a counter balance that allows a second group of cells to try to stop the ‘rogue’ immune cells from the damage they may be doing, but in most cases the immune cells are too strong resulting in the weakening of the secondary cells, and in Type 1 diabetes the death of insulin creating beta cells.
Because Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease it’s as if the immune cells have become something akin to an overbearing parent. They mean well, but stifle so many areas that in the end damage can occur even when the immune system was simply trying to help.
Think of the effect on the mice in this study this way – the immune system detects the beta cells of the pancreas as an intruder. The immune system sends a contingent of cells to ward off what they believe to be invaders. The body responds with a staged intervention by sending troops to stop the immune system from destroying the pancreas. The problem is there are too few ‘troop’ cells and they just aren’t strong enough to battle the immune system.
The theory behind the new vaccine is that if there were more ‘troops’ cells that could stand up to the immune cells they might prevent damage to the beta cells. If successful in humans this could have a very positive effect in other autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In both cases the struggle faced by patients have to do with an overactive immune system that ultimately did damage by being overbearing. The potential of the nanovaccine is to provide a more level playing field in very specific instances.
This is important because you don’t want to completely suppress the immune system, but there may be causes when improving the strength of other cells is an important component in specific disease protection.
The lead researcher in this study is Dr. Pere Santamaria, a professor at the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre at the University of Calgary in Alberta according to HealthDay, which went on to say, “The body doesn’t just allow the autoimmune aggression to go unchecked. There is a counter-mechanism that produces immune system cells to try to fight the rogue immune cells that are creating the damage in type 1 diabetes.”
Santamaria said, “With this nanovaccine, we engage the weak immune cells and make them multiply and divide, and then they can counter the autoimmune response without impairing systemic immunity.” This essentially is the ‘intervention’ process that helps keep the immune system in check.
How exactly does it work? According to the HealthDay report, “Instead of directly attacking the stronger cells, the autoregulatory T cells turn off the signal that tells the stronger immune cells to attack, effectively stopping the destruction of the beta cells.”
Time will tell if this approach is simply a dead end, a stepping-stone to a differing therapy or the answer science has been seeking in the battle against Type 1 diabetes.