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FED: Scientists step closer to diabetes vaccine

By Danny Rose, Medical Writer
29 Apr 2009 12:01 AM
Subject: FED: Scientists step closer to diabetes vaccine FED: Scientists step closer to diabetes vaccine Eds: Embargoed to 0001 (AEST) Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SYDNEY, April 29 AAP - Australian scientists are a major step closer to developing a vaccine which could stop people at risk of Type 1 diabetes from developing the debilitating condition.

Dr Shane Grey and his colleagues have found a way to stop the genetic condition from occurring in mice bred to spontaneously develop it and, he says, it appeared the protection was life-long.

The technique also had a 100 per cent success rate for the mice involved in the study, undertaken at Sydney's The Garvan Institute.

"It does sound too good to be true," Dr Grey told AAP.

"We helped the immune system to re-educate itself, and it was tolerant again of the (mice's) insulin producing cells.

"That then gives very strong support to the idea that our drug treatment would give life-long protection."

More than 140,000 Australians have Type 1 diabetes, a condition which causes their immune system to kill off their ability to make insulin.

The genetic fault is present from birth but the condition may not strike until adulthood, and without daily insulin injections these people would lapse into a potentially fatal coma.

The study found a chemical compound (BCMA-Fc), known to have potential benefits in combating a range of auto-immune disease, was effective in this case at stopping the onset of Type 1 diabetes.

A clinical trial to see if the results could be replicated in humans could take place in around two years, he said.

If successful, it could lead to the creation of a vaccine to inoculate people in families with a history of the disease.

"All immune cells talk to each other with various hormones ... and we've found this drug is an inhibitor of one of those hormones," Dr Grey says.

"We've hit the nerve centre of the emerging clinical disease (diabetes Type 1)."

The study was undertaken with support from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Garvan's Diabetes Vaccine Development Centre.

The results are to be published in the journal Diabetes.

AAP dr/cdh =0A

FED: Scientists step closer to diabetes vaccine