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Type 1 diabetes vaccine possible 'within a generation'

Follows the injection of a new funding stream for its research

UK flag A vaccine for type 1 diabetes could be developed “within a generation”, say scientists who have this week announced over £4.4m of new investment for research that will help make this a reality.

The new studies, which are being funded by Diabetes UK with support of over £3.3m from UK retailer Tesco and over £1m in co-funding from diabetes charity JDRF, could produce the first working vaccines within the next 10 years. 

As well as helping to delay or even prevent type 1 diabetes in those at high risk, the work will also mark an important step towards a cure for the condition. 

It's likely that the vaccine will also work in harmony with other treatments that reduce damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas caused by the immune system. 

A fully effective type 1 vaccine would represent a significant leap forward in diabetes treatment, but the latest research - published at this week's annual Diabetes UK conference in London - still has some way to go. 

In the first of four new studies Professor Mark Peakman, from King's College London, will lead the UK's first ever trial of a prototype vaccine in children and teenagers living with, or at high risk of, type 1 diabetes.

At the same time, Professor Colin Dayan at Cardiff University will develop a UK-wide network to enable more type 1 'immuno-therapy' trials to take place in UK hospitals - and to train the young doctors and researchers who will lead them. 

In addition, Professor Desmond Johnston of Imperial College London will continue work to identify people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes so that more people with the condition can be offered the important opportunity to take part in clinical trials. 

The money will also fund work by Dr Tim Tree, also at King's College London, who will set up a UK-wide network of specialist laboratories to study the impact of immuno-therapy trials, investigating exactly how different treatments work to control the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes and working out if it is possible to predict who will benefit most from each treatment. 

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Diabetes UK's director of research, said: “None of this will be easy or happen overnight. The first vaccines will probably help people to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes rather than preventing it entirely. 

“But even this would help to reduce the risk of serious complications, such as stroke, blindness and heart attacks. In the longer term, a fully effective vaccine would represent a huge medical breakthrough and could transform the lives of people with type 1 diabetes.”

Decades of work by scientists have helped to identify key parts of the immune system that could be potential targets for a type 1 immuno-therapy. 

Many of these have been the subject of clinical trials, which at first saw disappointing results. However, an increased understanding of the immune attack that causes type 1 has led to renewed hope that new therapies - or combinations of existing treatments - will have a much greater impact. 

Article by
Ben Adams

12th March 2015

From: Research

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