While I was on holiday, it seems the web has nearly exploded with articles related to a research that has promised cure in patients with type 1. The research in question is being done in Faustman Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. It involves a rather popular vaccine against tuberculosis (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)).
Dr. Faustman has been doing this research for a long while (papers appear dated since 2001), but this has been initially met with large amounts of peer-generated scepticism and has been gaining popularity just recently (official trials have been undergoing since 2008).
Apparently what the BCG vaccine does is that it is being able to reverse type 1 diabetes by boosting tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which eliminates abnormal white blood cells responsible for type 1 diabetes. This effect has been seen in both mice and in humans. Blood levels of autoreactive T cells, regulatory T cells that control immunity, autoantibodies that measure activity in the pancreas and levels of C-peptide that reflects insulin secretion were measured in the study participants. Dr. Faustman explains, “One of the key components of this study was our development of a way to measure the death of the autoreactive T cells that destroy the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin. Not only did we observe and measure the death of these self-targeting immune cells, but we also saw evidence of restoration of insulin production even in patients who've had type 1 diabetes for more than a decade."
The trial is in stage 2 now, with possible total of 4 stages, expected to last up to another decade.
This is truly remarkable and fascinating stuff (although there is some anxiety caused by the FDA regulatory as well as the fund-raising delaying). Too bad I don't live in the States, where I could possibly make my way into the human trials. One way of helping though is by making a donation to the lab.
Exciting times we are living in! Perhaps if the insulin-selling Big Pharma does not intervene, we may finally see a (affordable) cure before our time is up!