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November 30, 2023

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Vaccine gives hope to Type 1 diabetics

Soon, treatments such as insulin needles will be a thing of the past for those prone to Type 1 diabetes.

It’s thanks to a new vaccine being developed by British scientists at the University of Bristol and King’s College in London.

It is hoped that the vaccine, when given to infants, will prevent their bodies from destroying their own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called “islets.”

In Type 1 diabetes, white blood cells in the body attack the islets, reducing their ability to create insulin — a chemical that regulates the transfer of sugar from the blood stream to the body’s cells.

Without this insulin, sugar builds up in the blood stream and can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes and kidneys, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

Diabetes UK, an organization that campaigns and raises money for diabetes research, is funding the vaccine effort.

“A hundred years ago, Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence,” said Georgina Slack, head of research at Diabetes UK, in a press release. “We’ve come a long way in terms of managing the condition. Now we’re seeing new approaches in research emerge, which are improving the chances of providing a cure.”

Scientists included a protein molecule in the vaccine that forms a protective barrier around the body’s islet cells against white blood cells.

Testing done on mice and human blood samples have met with success, and live human patients will be tested with small doses of the vaccine this spring, however, scientists believe it will not be widely available until 2015.

“They have to fine-tune it,” explained Dr. Teresita T. Domini, who works for the University’s health center. “It’s the same thing with drugs, they really need to do studies … to find out how effective it is, adverse reactions — that’s always a problem,” she said.

“A breakthrough for Type 1 would be really great, because if you can give something to somebody to prevent them from having the disease, that would be a great medical breakthrough,” Domini said.

While the vaccine is intended for young children, in the same line of thinking as inoculations against chicken pox and the measles, it may be able to help older children and adults diagnosed with diabetes as well.

In a press release, Diabetes UK said it will perform human tests on newly-diagnosed patients as long as he or she has one out of five islet cells still working — which may mean the vaccine is effective for diabetics with at least some islet cells still active.

Ashley Williams, a sophomore at the University and a Type 1 diabetic, is optimistic about the vaccine’s potential.

“No one wants to test their blood sugar everyday,” Williams said. “Granted, it [diabetes] has helped me make better choices concerning my health — the way I eat, the way I exercise. But still, no one wants to inject themselves.”

Williams said the vaccine would help her grandchildren, as diabetes usually skips every other generation.

“Nothing can solve it [diabetes] unless there’s a cure,” she said. “[The vaccine] wouldn’t solve it, just help with prevention.”

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