Diabetes breakthrough: Experimental drug delays type 1 condition by years

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Diabetes can affect people of all ages. Source: Getty.

Diabetes affects around 1.7 million Australians, but researchers have now revealed they’re one step closer to curing the type 1 condition with an experimental drug.

According to findings from a group of researchers, including specialists from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, treating both adults and children with the immune therapy teplizumab could delay the need for insulin injections by up to two years.

The study – published in the New England Journal of Medicine – focused on discovering a way to identify those most likely to develop Type 1 diabetes.

The researchers then focused on 76 children and young adults at very high risk over five years and found, after taking the drug, the diabetes was delayed by two years.

“These results are incredibly encouraging,” The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Associate Professor John Wentworth, who led the study, said.

“We have known for over 3 decades how to identify children who are destined to develop type 1 diabetes. Now, for the first time, we have something that will improve their prospects and delay the need to start insulin injections to control blood sugar levels.”

The researchers were able to find the participants most at risk of developing type 1 diabetes by screening more than 200,000 people from families already diagnosed with it.

Of those, they chose the participants who had two or more type 1 diabetes autoantibodies and abnormal blood sugar levels. Of those, nine in 10 usually develop diabetes within five years.

“This is an extremely important finding. It demonstrates that immune therapy can delay type 1 diabetes. This evidence will accelerate progress toward a cure by enabling additional clinical trials to develop even better immune therapies for type 1 diabetes,” Wentworth added.

“This result also provides hope to type 1 diabetes families and the general community. Previously, we could do a blood test and advise the family that their child will develop diabetes. Now we can do something for these children.”

Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.2 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated)

Diabetes occurs when our bodies fail to convert glucose into energy. Without the conversion, our blood is flooded with glucose, which leads to high blood glucose levels.

The hormone insulin is vital for the conversion process and when the body fails to produce any or enough insulin, diabetes can develop.

Do you or anyone you know suffer from type 1 diabetes? Are you worried you could be at risk?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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