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UNC-CH study indicates special vaccines could prevent insulin-dependent diabetes

Chapel Hill -- Results of a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill medical study suggest that vaccines can be made using plasmid DNA that would inhibit development of insulin-dependent diabetes, a growing health threat in the United States.

Plasmid DNA is circular genetic material obtained from bacteria. A chronic inflammatory disease, insulin-dependent diabetes, also called type I or juvenile onset diabetes, results from cells of the body's own immune system going awry and eventually killing other cells needed to produce insulin. In their experiments, UNC-CH researchers succeeded in preventing diabetes from starting in special laboratory mice that develop diabetes as they age. More importantly, the scientists say, they also halted progression of the illness in animals already affected.

" This work is very encouraging because it has the potential to be useful in clinical settings," said Dr. Roland Tisch, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the UNC-CH School of Medicine. "In the past, our group and others could manipulate the damaging auto-immune response in various animal models for type I diabetes but not in ways that would be readily feasible clinically."

A report on the research appears in the Feb. 1 issue of the Journal of Immunology. Besides Tisch, authors are Dr. Bo Wang, postdoctoral fellow; Dr. Donald J. Weaver, now a UNC-CH medical student; visiting scholar Dr. Bo Liu, Thi Bui, research assistant; Dr. James Arthos of the National Institutes of Health; and Dr. David V. Serreze, a researcher at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Me.

"Recently, a Canadian group in Edmonton showed for the first time that islet beta cells -- the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin -- could be transplanted successfully in people with diabetes," Tisch said. "For more than a year, their patients have been free of insulin injections. A key issue, however, is that those individuals have had to take a cocktail of
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
30-Jan-2001


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