There’s potentially good treatment news for people with type 1 diabetes.
On Oct. 22, researchers from Northwestern University shared results of a new study using nanotechnology that shows promise in treating people with celiac disease (a condition in which the immune system attacks the small intestine in response to the ingestion of gluten), with implications for those with type 1 diabetes and a host of other conditions.
The results of the phase 2 trial, where a drug or treatment’s effectiveness is tested on human patients, were unveiled at a medical conference held in Spain. According to the researchers, celiac patients treated with the new technology showed a significant reduction in immune inflammation after ingesting gluten following the treatment.
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Researchers explained this is exciting news for people with type 1 diabetes and other diseases: “This is the first demonstration the technology works in patients,” Dr. Stephen Miller, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release. “We have also shown that we can encapsulate myelin into the nanoparticle to induce tolerance to that substance in multiple sclerosis models, or put a protein from pancreatic beta cells to induce tolerance to insulin in type 1 diabetes models.”
Currently, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, with insulin therapy being the only way to effectively manage the disease.
Miller has spent decades refining a biodegradable nanoparticle with potential to treat a host of other diseases in addition to celiac, like multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, peanut allergy and more.
Nanoparticles are microscopic, and recent advances in their use could have major applications in the field of bio-medicine. The nanoparticle technology in the study contained gluten, and when ingested, it teaches a person’s immune system that the allergen is, in fact, safe. According to Northwestern University: “The nanoparticle acts like a Trojan horse, hiding the allergen in a friendly shell, to convince the immune system not to attack it.”
Specifically, the treatment is called CNP-101/TAK-101. In the study, the nanoparticles were administered to celiac patients intravenously on the first and eighth days. After a week, they consumed gluten for 14 days, and their reactions to the gluten were then tested. The trial showed that those who received the treatment showed 90% less immune inflammation response to gluten compared to a group who received a placebo (inactive treatment). The study included 34 participants, six of whom did not complete the trial in light of gluten-related symptoms.
According to Northwestern, “Autoimmune diseases generally can only be treated with immune suppressants that provide some relief, but undermine the immune system and lead to toxic side-effects. CNP-101 does not suppress the immune system but reverses the course of disease.”
When the nanoparticle loaded with the allergen is injected into the bloodstream, the immune system isn’t concerned with it, because it sees the particle as harmless debris. Then the nanoparticle and its contents are consumed by a “vacuum-cleaner cell that clears cellular debris and pathogens from the body.”
“The vacuum-cleaner cell presents the allergen or antigen to the immune system in a way that says, ‘No worries, this belongs here,'” Miller said. “The immune system then shuts down its attack on the allergen, and the immune system is reset to normal.”
While the results show some promise for new treatment options, it’s important to note that it’s too soon to expect real-world treatment applications until further studies are complete.
Matthe Bernat is an Associate Editor at Diabetes Self-Management.