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New Pill Could Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists have discovered a way to halt the development of type 1 diabetes in mice. If research continues to clinical phases, it could result in a pill that stops people with type 1 diabetes needing daily insulin injections.

The study was undertaken by researchers from Stanford University, the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle, and the University of Manchester. One of the researchers, Dr Paul Bollyky, told The Verge that the idea came from attempting to discover what takes place right before the pancreas ceases insulin production. As the tissues in question can only be examined post-mortem, the researchers compromised by analysing pancreatic tissue donated by individuals who died shortly after a type 1 diagnosis.

When examining the tissues, researchers found a substantial build-up of hyaluronic acid: a substance associated with inflammation, water retention, and the suppression of T-cells. Diabetes is an autoimmune condition, caused by sufferers’ own immune systems attacking the pancreas. According to Dr Bollyky, the T cells have the job of keeping the immune system from doing too much damage; without them, healthy pancreatic beta cells are destroyed and lose the ability to produce insulin.

The research team genetically engineered the immune systems of mice to attack their pancreases. The mice were then given a drug called hymecromone. Hymecromone is used for a number of conditions, but one of its side effects is the shutdown of the body’s production of hyaluronic acid. Without this acid attacking them, the T cells were able to prevent damage being done to the mice’s pancreatic beta cells and control insulin levels in the body.

After this hopeful beginning there are now, of course, many more steps to take. Hymecromone is not yet approved by the FDA in the US, and approval is still needed for human trials. Due to the inability to fully identify every effect a substance has on the rodent central nervous system, drugs move slowly to the clinical stage.

There is also a question of dosage; at the moment, it would be necessary for a human to take several pills a day for life, based on the dosing schedule for the mice in the experiment. Dr Bollyky has stated the desire to turn the drug into a once-a-week pill dose.

This breakthrough, and the hurdles it faces in going further, highlights the need to streamline the drug discovery process and reduce attrition rates. There are a number of ways of doing this – the use of equipment like ActualHCA is one of them. ActualHCA offers richer behavioural data than any other solution on the market, and it allows for identity to be retained. This makes the early detection of CNS symptoms much easier.

To read the article in The Verge, click here. To read the study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, click here. If you would like to learn more about ActualHCA, visit our product page or get in touch today.