In a small trial conducted in the US, researchers found out that a drug which was previously used to treat a skin disorder has shown signs of being able to cure some aspects of type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus type 1, also known as type 1 diabetes, is a form of diabetes that is caused by autoimmune problem which destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This inability to keep the destruction of the insulin-producing cells leads to the lack of insulin necessary to regulate the body’s blood glucose level. Common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger and weight loss.
Type 1 diabetes, if undiagnosed and untreated, can be fatal but the condition can be easily managed by the administration of insulin to the patient. Transplantation of both the pancreas can also be a possible cure. Insulin treatment for type 1 diabetes should be regularly scheduled indefinitely. This type of diabetics can be caused by genetics and exposure to a driving antigen.
In a small trial, scientists found out that alefacept, a drug for a skin disorder, aids the body in its production of insulin which is the main problem for type 1 diabetes patients. Researchers said that the drug could be a better alternative to other mainstream treatments as it also works to protect the immune system. They do however accept that more research and clinical trials should be first completed to prove its viability and effectivity. The research findings were first published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
Alefacept, also called as Amevive, was initially released as a cure for a skin disorder called psoriasis in the US. However, it has been withdrawn by its manufacturer in 2011 before it has been approved by the European market. The manufacturer, however, stressed that its withdrawal is not because of any safety concern about the drug.
Similar to type 1 diabetes, psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that happens when the immune system attacks healthy skin cells. In clinical trials with alefacept, they found out that the drug works by attacking specific types of T-cells which were also the cells that attack insulin-producing cells in type 1 diabetes. Researchers from Indiana University then started a study to know if the drug would have any effect for type 1 diabetes patients.
The trial consists of the weekly injections of 33 patients with alafacept for 12 weeks which were followed with break of 12 weeks and then another set of doses. The control group was a group of 16 patients which were administered with placebo injections following the same schedule.
Initially, the researchers found out no improvements in the way insulin is produced two hours after eating the foods but they did found out significant improvements after 4 hours. During this time, they were able to see that those who did receive alefacept were able to keep the insulin in their body. The second group experienced a decrease in their insulin levels.
Lead researcher Professor Mark Digby admits that these are only small success as the trial group is literally small in number. He also added that alefacept and its future forms could be used to stabilize type 1 diabetes or prevent its progression but as he said, it is unlikely that it will totally cure the disease. Dr. Kevan Herold of Yale University meanwhile states that little as it may be, small achievements are still important since they contribute towards the bigger achievements.
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