What your patient might ask you…

Is there a vaccine for Diabetes?

A potential vaccine for Type 1 Diabetes is undergoing a second trial.  The trials are experimenting giving oral insulin as a way to train the immune system.

Your Type 1 Diabetic recap:
When:  Diagnosed in childhood or early adolescence.
Why:  The body attacks the beta cells in the pancreas which are responsible for producing insulin.  No insulin means no glucose gets into cells, so sugar builds up in the bloodstream, where it can cause life-threatening complications.
Known risk factors:  family history, genetics, geography (increased risk as you travel away from the equator, age (two main peaks at ages 4-7 and 10-14).
Symptoms:  increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision.

Why does the study give oral insulin?
When insulin is given orally, it is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth and the intestines, and is split into smaller components during the digestive process. That’s why oral insulin, unlike subcutaneous insulin, has no influence on blood sugar levels.  Instead it acts like a vaccine that trains the immune system.

In the first study (the Pre-POINT study) children ages 2-7 took oral insulin in powder form with their food every day for twelve months.  A positive immune response was observed in these children after giving them powdered insulin.

The second study (pre-POINTearly study) will treat children between 6 months and 2 years with oral insulin.  The goal of the study is “to build up immune tolerance to insulin and thus block the autoimmune process”.