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I have a friend who's daughter has Type 1 Diabetes. She was just recently diagnosed at age 14, and I happened across some information about anti-immune drugs being used to possibly halt the destruction of the beta cells. Is this an experimental thing and, if so, where can I find out more about it?

Yes, there have been many experimental attempts to use anti-immune drugs to stop the destruction of the pancreatic beta cells. It certainly seems like a good idea, since several antibodies have been found in people with Type 1 diabetes that seem to be playing a role in the beta cell destruction. And it's well-known that anti-immune drugs can control the amount of antibodies in some other diseases. However, when anti-immune drugs have been tried in diabetes, the results have been very frustrating: a slight delay in the rate of destruction is about the best that's happened. And the anti-immune drugs are very expensive, and have very dangerous side effects. I don't think that anyone with a kid or teenager with diabetes should try these anti-immune drugs, unless they are willing to be "guinea pigs" in one of the big studies that use a standard research protocol, with lots of forms to fill out to explain the risks involved, and lots of work for probably very little results.

Rather than using anti-immune drugs to fight the antibodies, another approach is now underway throughout the United States to prevent diabetes in family members of people with Type 1 diabetes by using very small doses of insulin to try to discourage the beta cell destruction. The doses are small enough that there's minimal worry about causing hypoglycemia problems.

Over twenty-five major medical centers are now participating in this study, that's been nicknamed the DPT-1. You can find more information about the DPT-1 at The Diabetes Prevention Trial right here at the children with DIABETES.

If your friend's family were being evaluated for the DPT-1 study, the researchers would draw blood samples to look for antibodies in your friend's daughter, who already has diabetes, and at blood samples from first-degree relatives such as mom and pop, and any brothers and sisters. The researchers would look to see if there's a pattern of diabetes antibodies within the family. Any family member who has the antibodies but not the diabetes would obviously be at high-risk of getting diabetes, and would be eligible for participating in the DPT-1 study. It's hoped that the treatments being proposed by the DPT-1 researchers would block the development of diabetes in family members, although it wouldn't do anything for the person who already has diabetes.

There are lots of other research studies underway that might benefit kids like your friend's daughter as well as other people with diabetes. Ask your Diabetes Team where the action is, or call the local office of either the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation or the American Diabetes Association.

Original posting 30 Nov 95


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
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