Is a Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine a Possibility: What if it were possible to provide children with a vaccine that would effectively eliminate the disease known as Type 1 diabetes? While there are multiple advances in the treatment and regulation of blood glucose in Type 1 wouldn’t it be better to simply stop Type 1 from ever developing in the first place? It’s possible, but it is practical?
When you really get down to the nuts and bolts of medicine it is conceivable that there would be no more Type 1 cases ever, but at least ion one case the cost is too high.
You see Type 1 diabetes is developed based on misinformation provided to the immune system. The body’s own T cells attack the pancreas based on this information. By disabling the pancreas the production of insulin stops and Type 1 is assured.
The radical step would be to simply suppress a child’s immunity through chemical means, but this would leave children open to a host of diseases that could develop while the body stops fighting all invaders – real or imagined.
In Type 1 the body may label beta cells as invaders and send T cells to kill them. The T cells do their job, but on a wrongly identified foe. Consider this a time when your body comes under friendly fire and loses.
If removing the body’s ability to fight invaders is not a workable solution what might work? That’s the question Dr. Massimo Trucco a physician connected with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation wants an answer to.
Trucco has been working on a vaccine that focuses on dendritic cells. It is these cells that alert the T cells to the presence of invaders. The problem is the dendritic cells are wrong.
Dr. Trucco has been working to alter the message sent by the dendritic cells so that T cells will not understand it. If the T cells aren’t told to attack the beta cells Trucco theorizes they will simply not attack. If they don’t attack then the pancreas remains healthy and properly functioning.
The T cell attack on the pancreas might be a bit like one branch of the military informing another branch that one of America’s cities had become an enemy of the state. The military would be called into action and an attack would take place in an effort to overpower the perceived enemy and eliminate the foes that stand against the sovereignty of the country. However, if this scenario were true I would hope there would be some intervention or requests for further verification before they proceeded with the attack.
No such verification is required in a T cell attack on the beta cells of the pancreas. The pancreas does not stop working in a single attack. The process can take some time, but the T cells don’t seem to stop their attack on what they are told to consider an enemy.
Dr. Trucco’s research has proven successful in laboratory mice and a human adult trial is underway on 15 Type 1 diabetics. Should this prove promising future studies are planned with Type 1 diabetic children.
The current process is complicated and does not appear cost effective, but what is learned may provide answers on how to make this an effective vaccination for future generations who may no longer need to live life with Type 1 diabetes.