Type 1 diabetes: Cardiff researchers in vaccine trial

girl injecting insulin People with type 1 diabetes need insulin treatment to manage their condition

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Researchers at Cardiff University are taking part in a clinical trial of a new vaccine to tackle type 1 diabetes.

They believe a vaccine can slow or stop the disease's development and recently-diagnosed adult volunteers are being sought to take part in the trial.

Type 1 affects about one in 250 people in the UK and is rising, especially in young children.

It involves a patient's immune system attacking the body's own insulin-making cells.

The resulting lack of insulin is life-threatening unless treated with replacement therapy.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 is not linked to obesity or lifestyle. Genes do appear to play a role.

Further treatments

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Affects approximately 1 in 250 in UK
  • Is increasing, especially in young children
  • Being diagnosed is life-changing
  • Multiple insulin injections daily for the rest of life
  • Some people experience poor health and quality of life as a result
  • Associated ill health places considerable burden on NHS
  • SOURCE: Clinical trial

Colin Dayan, professor of clinical diabetes and metabolism at Cardiff, who is leading the trial said: "We believe that this immune-based therapy can slow or stop the body from damaging its own insulin-making cells in the pancreas.

"Research to date shows that the treatment is safe, but we are in the early days and need to learn more about how it works in people in newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetes.

"If effective, we can develop further treatments for individuals who are at risk of developing this type of diabetes later in life."

The Cardiff University team is working with King's College London on the trial with type 1 diabetes charity JDRF and the Australian Health and Medical Research Council.

Mark Peakman, professor of clinical immunology at King's, has developed the vaccine approach.


Emma Parry, outreach team leader for Llamau, on why she is taking part

Emma Parry

Diabetes is still very new to me and I'm still learning about the condition.

I was keen to take part in the trial because for a long time I questioned 'why me?', 'what did I do?', 'could have I prevented this?'

I always thought I had a fairly healthy lifestyle and a healthy attitude towards exercise and diet and overall I'm generally a healthy and active 35-year-old, so you can imagine, being told that I have type 1 diabetes was a bit of shock to the system.

I have a lot of unanswered questions about why people develop diabetes, is it inherited? Do you get it from a virus? Could it be environmental conditions or stress?

I still don't know why I developed diabetes, but thought my contribution in some small way, will help answer some of these questions for future generations.

I hope it would will help towards prevention or even a cure.

"In my laboratory we spent many years gaining a better understanding of what goes wrong with the balance of the immune system in patients developing Type 1 diabetes," he said.

"We eventually hit upon the idea that we could try to revert the damaging response by inducing a protective one; so it's a vaccine with a difference."

The scientists are recruiting volunteers to take part in the clinical trial at four hospitals - University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, Guy's and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust in London, Bristol Royal Infirmary and Royal Victoria Hospital in Newcastle.

Prof Dayan said they are looking for people who have only recently been diagnosed who may have only just started insulin treatment.

"Taking part involves having vaccination-type injections under the skin every two weeks for six months and giving blood and urine samples," he said.

Prof Dayan added: "Our ultimate hope is to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. We need to offer all people with diabetes the opportunity to participate in research.

"Information from the trial combined with further studies building on this could improve quality of life and long-term health and benefit for children and adults with type 1 diabetes and future generations."

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