Daily Doses of Oral Insulin May Prevent Type 1 Diabetes in Children
Recent research published in JAMA suggests there may be a way to create a vaccine to protect against type 1 diabetes.
A team of scientists from Germany found that children who took oral insulin on a daily basis developed specific immunity changes that could prevent the development of type 1 diabetes.
The study included 25 children who had a family history of type 1 diabetes – 15 children received varying doses of oral insulin, while 10 others were given a placebo.
Depending on the child, treatments lasted anywhere from three to 18 months, and researchers observed no adverse side effects.
'Teaching' the immune system to work
According to study leader Ezio Bonifacio, Ph.D., giving insulin to kids who are at high risk for type 1 diabetes retrains the immune system to act in a protective manner.
“We think that the reason that some of the genetically at-risk children start the disease process do so because their immune system didn’t see enough insulin early enough and in the wrong place,” Bonifacio said. “Oral exposure at the right doses is known to teach the immune system to make protective responses.”
Researchers hope to test the model in a much larger group of high-risk children and monitor the subjects long-term.
“This is the first time we are seeing any sort of response by the immune system to orally administered insulin in children,” Bonifacio said.
If proven, the theory that insulin therapy in children can prevent type 1 diabetes may also have implications for children at risk for other conditions, like allergies.