British researchers are testing a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes that could eventually allow patients who must now take insulin several times a day to receive it only once or twice a week.
The clinical trial, being conducted by researchers affiliated with Addenbrooke's Hospital and the University of Cambridge, seeks to determine whether interleukin-2 in the form of a drug called aldesleukin (Proleukin) could be used to halt the damage to the pancreas seen in people with Type 1 diabetes.
"Type 1 diabetes is a potentially very serious disease that requires lifelong treatment and regular insulin injections throughout the day," noted lead researcher Frank Waldron-Lynch, M.D. from the University of Cambridge. "Our aim is to use aldesleukin to rebalance the immune system so that patients can significantly reduce the number of insulin injections needed to just once or twice a week by slowing the progression of the disease."
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Type 1 diabetes causes the immune system to attack pancreatic cells, rendering them unable to produce insulin, which converts glucose in the bloodstream into energy that powers the body’s cells. Treatment involves measuring blood sugar levels and injecting artificial insulin to make up for the insulin the pancreas is not producing.
Dozens of genes have been identified that increase the risk of developing the disease, but variants of one particular gene — known as interleukin-2, or IL2 — appears to play a prominent role in diabetes and in regulating the immune system.
For the new clinical trial, two participants are receiving interleukin-2 treatments and being monitored to determine its safety, effectiveness, and optimal dosing level in potentially treating diabetes.
Dr. Waldron-Lynch said the results so far have been "very positive."
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