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Type 1 diabetes safely arrested with short-term use of new drug

Researchers at Columbia University and the University of California, San Francisco have halted the course of early stage Type 1 diabetes for a year by treating patients for just two weeks with a new immune-suppressive drug, which only had minor side effects.

The year-long clinical trial is the first to stop the progression of Type 1 diabetes using a short-term therapy that specifically targets disease-causing T-cells of the immune system, the scientists report.

Patients taking the drug continued to produce their own insulin and needed less supplemental hormone to maintain their blood sugar than those who did not take the drug, according to the results of the study which are published in the May 30 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The phase I/II clinical trial, which measured dosages and effectiveness of the drug, treated 12 patients, ages 7 to 27, within six weeks of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the body's own immune system destroys the insulin-secreting islet cells of the pancreas.

For two weeks they received daily injections of a new-generation immunosuppressive drug designed to disable the T cells that orchestrate destruction of insulin-producing islet cells (known as beta cells), the process responsible for the progression of diabetes.

Twelve other patients, who were recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and did not receive the drug, served as controls.

Patients were followed for a year and nine of the 12 in the treated group had little, if any, loss in their ability to secrete insulin compared with 10 of the 12 controls who had a significant decrease, the study showed. Treated patients also showed improvements in other clinical signs and symptoms of diabetes.

The ability to continue secreting insulin is an important marker of healthier prognosis for Type 1 diabetics. Earlier studies have shown that retaining insulin secretion, rather than relying solely on ins
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Contact: Annie Bayne
as862@columbia.edu
212-305-3900
Columbia University Medical Center
29-May-2002


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