Scientists from Bristol University have found a molecule which may stop the damage caused by the immune system in diabetes.
Dr. Neil Williams, Senior Lecturer in Immunology at the University of Bristol described the research at the British Society for Immunology Congress 2000 in Harrogate, England, today.
Certain forms of a bacteria commonly found in the intestine make a protein which can be used to prevent the damaging inflammation which blocks the normal function of the pancreas in diabetes. Dr. Williams says, “Type 1 diabetes affects an estimated 4 million people in Europe and North America and currently there is no cure.”
In diabetes, the normal controls on the immune system go wrong and it attacks the pancreas, stopping the production of insulin — essential for a healthy metabolism.
Dr. Williams states, “We have found that administering the non-toxic bacterial protein can re-educate the immune system. The normal controls are re-established and the inflammation which damages the pancreas is stopped.”
In order for this to be effective, the protein must be given in the early stages of the damaging immune response, when the pancreas is still able to produce some insulin. The treatment, which can be given in the form of a nasal spray, would therefore be targeted at high-risk groups.
Even though the protein comes from a potentially harmful bacterium, it is completely non-toxic.