An arthritis drug that can delay the progression of type one diabetes has been hailed as a “life-changing” drug.
An autoimmune condition occurs when the patient’s body mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing cells that lower blood sugar.
Therefore, patients are required to inject insulin at least once a day to control the amount of glucose in the circulation.
Read more: Signs of type 2 diabetes in adulthood can be seen in children 8 years old
A study by University College London (UCL) has sparked hope after the rheumatoid arthritis drug abatacept appeared to preserve the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin.
One-third of patients participating in the two-year trial showed no improvement in their condition while on the drug, leaving the team optimistic that the drug may be available for at least three years.
“We’ve found something new and if it continues with the next test it’s a new paradigm that could really matter,” study author and professor Lucy Walker told me.
Nearly 4 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes in 2019. The majority (90%) have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and old age.
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About 8% of patients have type 1, while the other 2% are diagnosed with more rare forms.
In the US, 34.2 million – 10.5% of the population – have diabetes in 2018. Of which, nearly 1.6 million people have type 1.
Diabetes that is not well controlled can lead to serious complications such as nerve damage, heart attack, and blindness.
‘Big leap forward’ in diabetes treatment
Abatacept blocks an aspect of the immune system called T cells that mistakenly attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
In 1999, UCL scientists identified the signals that control the behavior of “follicle helper T cells”, then discovered that these cells appeared in large numbers in those with type 1 diabetes.
Abatacept is known to work to suppress the over-immune response that occurs in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
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In addition to their results, the UCL scientists hope the drug will delay the progression of type 1 diabetes for even longer than the two years for which it has been studied. They added that testing had to be done to confirm this.
The team also believes that patients of any stage of the disease can benefit, however, only those diagnosed with a diagnosis are allowed to enroll in the trial.
Abatacept is believed to be ineffective against type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the secreted insulin doesn’t work properly, causing blood sugar to continue to rise.
For unclear reasons, abatacept is only effective in a third of people with type 1 diabetes.
Blood samples are analyzed through artificial intelligence allowing scientists to detect the T-cell makeup of different patients, allowing them to evaluate the effectiveness of the drug.
“Initial trials in people with type 1 diabetes have found the drug is not suitable for routine use because the reaction is variable; Some people benefit greatly, while others do not, ”Professor Walker said.
“Being able to know who is able to respond in advance can limit interest in this therapy for people with diabetes.”
The scientists are said to be in discussions with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca about conducting a larger clinical trial. They hope abatacept will be available to patients in 3-5 years.
“We can quickly see how this treatment is licensed and this can change lives,” said Elizabeth Robertson, from Diabetes UK – which funded the research. [for] Many of the 10,000 children and adults are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the UK each year.
“This will be a huge step forward in the way we treat our illness and change lives.”
Dr Janaka Karalliedde from Guy’s and St Thomas Hospitals in London agrees, adding that there are always “unresponsive” patients.
By identifying the markers that an individual will respond, the most profitable people can be targeted, he added.