Trials to test a vaccine to prevent the development of Type-1 diabetes may start as early as next year. The vaccine has so far been tested successfully in mice, with the first phase of human trials expected to begin in Finland in late 2018.
The research is based on the idea that a group of viruses, known as enteroviruses, are thought to play a role in the development of Type-1 diabetes. In some cases, the viruses have been found to infect cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, permanently damaging them to such a degree that they become faulty.
So far, the vaccine has been shown to be effective and safe in mice. The next round of trials will assess whether or not the vaccine is safe in 30 adult humans. If it passes this hurdle, the researchers will conduct a second phase that will determine its safety in 150 children. It is at this point that they will see if it is also effective to protect against enteroviruses, some of which are known to cause diseases such as meningitis and polio.
It is not until these trials have been completed that the researchers will then move on to the third phase, in which they will test the vaccine to see if it can prevent the development of Type-1 diabetes in 4,000 children. This is a lot harder to test for, as it can take up to eight years for the scientists to be certain that the vaccine has prevented the patient from developing the condition.
“The aim is to develop a vaccine that could prevent a significant number of Type 1 diabetes cases,” explains team lead Heikki Hyöty, from the University of Tampere, in a statement. “Additionally, the vaccine would protect from infections caused by enteroviruses such as the common cold, myocarditis, meningitis, and ear infections. However, in light of current research, the vaccine could not be used to cure existing diabetes.”
With the cost of treating children who develop Type-1 diabetes thought to be around €1 million ($1.2 million) over their entire lifetime, the ability to vaccinate even a small proportion of these kids would result in significant healthcare savings. It seems that either way, there is going to be a long wait to see if this trial vaccine is successful or not.