New onset type 1 diabetes reversed in mice: What about humans?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Type 1 diabetes reversed in mice

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have found they can reverse newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes in mice by targeting a specific part of the immune system. Could the therapy someday help humans with type 1 diabetes?

Therapy for reversing type 1 diabetes uses a different approach

The investigators for the study say they are hopeful that the finding could mean help for humans battling the disease. One of the reasons the research is significant is because, unlike other immune system modulating therapies, the scientists are targeting innate immune cells instead of the adaptive immune system.

The treatment used does not directly interact with T-cells the researchers explain. William Ridgway, MD, presented the finding Saturday, June 14, 2014, at the American Diabetes Association’s 74th Scientific Sessions in San Francisco.


He explains "We have shown that by using an antibody to stimulate a specific molecule in the innate immune system we can reverse – with a high rate of success - new onset diabetes in mice that have already developed the symptoms of diabetes. The cause of this reversal is a preservation of the endocrine pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. These cells are preserved from the autoimmune attack which is the hallmark of Type 1 diabetes.”

Type 1 diabetes is on the rise but the reason remains a mystery. There is some evidence that the autoimmune disease could stem from under-stimulation of the innate immune system early in life.

The disease occurs when the body attacks its own T-cells.

Early reversal of type 1 diabetes is key

The therapy used in mice targets TLR4, a toll-like receptor that has a protective role in preventing type 1 diabetes. The researchers boosted the activity of TLR4 using the agonistic monoclonal antibody, UT18 to reverse type 1 diabetes in mice.

Ridgeway emphasized the key to reversing type 1 diabetes is to catch it early in mice. The time-frame for successful reversal could be longer in humans. The researcher said it's possible that the pathway could be tested in humans, given the success of the treatment in mice.