Type 1 diabetes is the most prevalent metabolic disorder among young people. Approximately two million Europeans suffer from the disease, and the group of patients grows by an average of 3% annually. The origins of the disease remain unknown, but an effective therapy with permanent results and without side effects may be found in the near future, according to Professor Chantal Mathieu of the Department of Clinical and Experimental Endocrinology. A new approach using active biopharmaceuticals appears promising.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder by which the immune system of the patient attacks his/her own body. Insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed, deregulating the patient’s blood sugar levels and leading the patient to require regular insulin injections to survive. Moreover, complications such as eye diseases, kidney conditions and vascular diseases may drastically reduce life expectancy and quality of life. But new research may change this reality.
The new therapy was developed by ActoGenix, a biopharmaceutical spin-off of Ghent University and the VIB. The spin-off specializes in the development and valorization of ActoBiotics, a new class of orally administered and locally active biopharmaceuticals. Professor Mathieu’s team conducted a study with mice at KU Leuven. ActoBiotics significantly reduced newly developed type 1 diabetes permanently and had no side effects.
“Therein lies the breakthrough”, Professor Mathieu says. “Until now, the most successful treatment for newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes in mice only worked for a period of approximately six months in humans. What is more, these therapies also had significant side effects. Our approach promises to have a more lasting effect with no side effects.”
“Essentially, the breakthrough concerns the oral administration of the genetically modified lactococcus bacteria, which is found in yoghurt, for example. These lactococci secrete certain proteins in the intestine, which redress the imbalance in the immune system. In approximately 60% of cases, the mice were completely cured. The beta cells in the pancreas continue to function normally after the treatment is stopped, secreting insulin and thus determining the glucose-serum level. The immune system’s other activities are left undisturbed. It is perhaps even more important, however, that the specific protection of the beta cells from the immune system is permanent. The basic point is that we manage to affect a kind of permanent calming or regulation in a certain undesired activity of the immune system.”
“In clinical tests in the US, ActoBiotics have had very positive results on people with mucositis, a side effect of chemotherapy in cancer treatment. It affects the mucous membrane in the mouth, which not only has a negative effect on the patient’s comfort, but can also result in life-threatening situations. Our results have now shown that clinical tests on patients with type 1 diabetes may also be successful. To that end, however, we would require the cooperation of an important partner in the pharmaceutical industry. ActoGenix is too small a company to organize such tests independently. Hopefully, our results will convince a large pharmaceutical company to collaborate with us.”
The complete article with research results appeared in the leading Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Health-e-Solutions comment: I am not so keen on genetically modified anything, but the results are compelling. This treatment affected a kind of permanent calming or regulation in a certain undesired activity of the immune system. Could it be that healthy lifestyle and dietary changes that heal the gut and thereby support the immune system could affect the same kind of activity? It is well worth considering. After all it’s only healthy food.