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[IP] "New therapy may stop type 1 diabetes progression"

NEW YORK, Nov 23 (Reuters Health) - People newly diagnosed with type 1 
diabetes may benefit from an experimental therapy that appears to halt the 
progression of the disease and lower the requirement for insulin, new 
research findings suggest.
Unlike type 2 diabetes, which comprises 90% of diabetes cases and is linked 
to obesity, type 1 diabetes results from the destruction of insulin-producing 
cells in the pancreas. Frequently this destruction stems from an attack by 
the body's own immune system. Type 1 diabetics usually have to inject 
themselves with insulin to survive.
Dr. Dana Elias of Peptor, a biopharmaceutical company based in Rehovot, 
Israel, and colleagues have developed a protein, called DiaPep277, which 
blocks the destructive actions of the body's immune system against 
insulin-producing cells.
In a small study of 35 patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes, Elias 
and colleagues compared DiaPep277 with an inactive placebo.
Thirty-one patients completed the 10-month study. In patients receiving D
iaPep277, concentrations of a protein called C-peptide, which indicates 
proper insulin production, were maintained, indicating that DiaPep277 
maintained insulin levels. But in the placebo group, the levels fell 
Furthermore, patients taking DiaPep277 showed a reduced need for insulin, the 
researchers report in the November 24th issue of The Lancet. They also report 
that they saw no side effects from the therapy.
"Although this study was small, treatment of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes 
with DiaPep277 seems to preserve (a person's own) insulin production," the 
investigators conclude.
Elias noted that in patients already diagnosed with diabetes and requiring 
insulin, DiaPep277 may significantly improve their disease status and lessen 
insulin dependence. While the treatment does not bring back cells that have 
been destroyed, if given early enough it could possibly prevent diabetes, she 
"For the last 80 years, type 1 diabetes patients could only look to improved 
insulin for better treatment, but no cure was available," Elias told Reuters 
Health. "DiaPep277 represents a major therapeutic advance in 
diabetes-specific treatment that targets the underlying disease, not the 
According to Elias, five DiaPep277 studies in Europe have either just been 
completed or are ongoing. "We are going to initiate the first study in the US 
in early 2002, " she said.
SOURCE: The Lancet 2001;358.

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