Do we now have a diabetes vaccine?

LINKÖPING, Sweden — As millions of people around the world line up for their coronavirus vaccination, could the next vaccine breakthrough make diabetes a thing of the past? Researchers in Sweden say a clinical study of a potential vaccine for type 1 diabetes has produced encouraging results.

A team from Linköping University finds injecting the protein GAD (or glutamic acid decarboxylase) into a patient’s lymph nodes effectively preserves their ability to produce insulin. In patients with type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system starts attacking the cells which make insulin. Once all of these cells are destroyed, the body is no longer able to regulate its blood sugar levels.

Unfortunately, just like people with type 2 diabetes who have to monitor their blood sugar constantly, type 1 diabetes patients must take insulin for the rest of their lives. Researchers set out to see if they could slow or possibly completely stop this process.

Training the body to tolerate GAD
Professor Johnny Ludvigsson says one strategy scientists have focused on is altering the way the immune system reacts to encountering GAD. In type 1 diabetes patients, the immune system commonly forms antibodies to attack the protein GAD65. For years, Prof. Ludvigsson has been studying the possibility of making the human body more tolerant of GAD so the immune system stops damaging insulin cells.

“Studies have shown that even an extremely small production of insulin in the body is highly beneficial for patient health. People with diabetes who produce a certain amount of insulin naturally do not develop low blood sugar levels, hypoglycemia, so easily. They have also a lower risk of developing the life-threatening condition ketoacidosis, which can arise when the insulin level is low,” says Ludvigsson, a senior professor in the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, in a university release.

In a phase 2 clinical study, called DIAGNODE-2, researchers gathered 109 participants between 12 and 24 years-old who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within the past six months. One group received three monthly injections of a substance called GAD-alum in each patient’s lymph nodes. The other participants received a placebo to serve as a control group.

Source: Study Finds