A new study shows that a synthetic antioxidant can delay and prevent the onset of autoimmune diabetes in mice. The antioxidant protected insulin-producing beta cells from lethal oxygen radicals generated in diabetes. To the researchers surprise, the antioxidant also blocked the ability of the immune system to recognize beta cells, the target of the autoimmune attack in diabetes. The findings, published by researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in the February issue of Diabetes, suggest that antioxidants may be useful against diabetes as well as other autoimmune diseases and organ-transplant rejections.
These data show that antioxidants protect against diabetes on two fronts. They not only mop up destructive oxygen radicals, but also alter the immune response, said James Crapo, M.D., co-author and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at National Jewish. That suggests the intriguing possibility that we might one day treat a variety of autoimmune diseases by altering the oxidant/antioxidant balance of immune system.
In autoimmune, or type 1, diabetes, the immune system mistakenly recognizes beta cells as foreign invaders and initiates an attack against them. During the attack, inflammatory cells release oxygen radicals that damage beta cells and eventually cause them to die. As increasing numbers of beta cells are destroyed, the body produces less and less insulin, leading to diabetes. Approximately 1 million people in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes, and about 30,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
The researchers used a synthetic catalytic antioxidant developed several years earlier by Dr. Crapo and his colleagues, and now licensed by Incara Pharmaceuticals Corporation. The antioxidant, dubbed AEOL 10113, mimics the naturally occurring antioxidant superoxide dismutase, but is effective against a wider range of antioxidants and lasts longer in the body.
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Contact: William Allstetter
National Jewish Medical and Research Center
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