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Nanoparticle Vaccine Cures Type 1 in Mice

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2010

Using a sophisticated nanotechnology-based "vaccine," researchers were able to successfully cure mice with Type 1 diabetes and slow the onset of the disease in mice at risk for the disease.

The study provides new and important insights into understanding how to stop the immune attack that causes Type 1 diabetes, and could even have implications for other autoimmune diseases.

The research was led by Dr. Pere Santamaria, Chair of the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Center in University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine.  The researchers were looking to specifically stop the autoimmune response that causes Type 1 diabetes without damaging the immune cells that provide protection against infections -- what is called an "antigen-specific" immunotherapy.  Type 1 diabetes is caused when certain white blood cells (called T cells) mistakenly attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Dr. Santamaria, who is a JDRF Scholar, an award to academic scientists taking innovative and creative approaches to better treat and cure Type 1 diabetes and its complications, stated, "Essentially there is an internal tug-of-war between aggressive T-cells that want to cause the disease and weaker T cells that want to stop it from occurring."

According to Teodora Staeva, Ph.D., JDRF Program Director of Immune Therapies, a key finding from the study is that the treatment did not compromise the rest of the immune system -- a key consideration for the treatment to be safe and effective in an otherwise healthy person with Type 1 diabetes.

"The potential that nanoparticle vaccine therapy holds in reversing the immune attack without generally suppressing the immune system is significant," said Dr. Staeva.  "Dr. Santamaria's research has provided both insight into pathways for developing new immunotherapies and proof-of-concept of a specific therapy that exploits these pathways for preventing and reversing Type 1 diabetes."

Dr. Santamaria noted that the study had implications for other autoimmune diseases beyond Type 1 diabetes.  "If the paradigm on which this nanovaccine is based holds true in other chronic autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and others, nanovaccines might find general applicability in autoimmunity," said Dr. Santamaria.

Source:, Journal Immunity April 8, 2010 online University of Calgary

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