Using a sophisticated nanotechnology-based “vaccine,” researchers at the University of Calgary were able to successfully cure mice with type 1 diabetes. This was shown to slow the onset of the disease in mice at risk for the disease. The study was published April 2010 in the online edition of the scientific journal Immunity.
The study co-funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, provides new and important insights into understanding how to stop the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes, and could even have implications for other autoimmune diseases. Led by Dr. Pere Santamaria, Chair of the Julia McFarlane Diabetes ResearcherCentre in UCalgary’s Faculty of Medicine, the researchers were looking to specifically stop the autoimmune response that causes type 1 diabetes without damaging the immune cells that provide protection against infections – what is called an “antigen-specific” immunotherapy.
Type 1 diabetes is caused when certain white blood cells (called T cells) mistakenly attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Antigen-specific immunotherapies, like Dr. Santamaria’s work on nanovaccines, are a priority within JDRF’s Immune Therapies program.
“Essentially there is an internal tug-of-war between aggressive T-cells that want to cause the disease and weaker T cells that want to stop it from occurring,” says Dr. Santamaria, who is a JDRF Scholar, an award to academic scientists taking innovative and creative approaches to better treat and cure type 1 diabetes and its complications.