JDRF-funded researchers in the US have developed a procedure to reverse or stop the type 1 diabetes autoimmune attack by boosting regulatory immune cells called Tregs.

Described as the “master policemen of the immune system” by Dr Stephen Gitelman, Chief of the Pediatric Endocrine Division of the University of California San Francisco, these Treg cells are believed to be able to regulate autoimmune attacks as long as you have the right number of them.


In this procedure, the Tregs are taken from people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, multiplied in the laboratory, and then infused back into the person where it is hoped the cells will prevent further destruction of insulin-producing islet cells.

Initially tested in a diabetic mouse model with success in slowing and in some cases reversing the progression of T1D, the procedure was moved into a small pilot study with 14 people. This pilot study has proved successful.

Mary Rooney, a participant in the Treg pilot study says “I was diagnosed with T1D when I was 35 and looked into clinical trials straight away. I was the first human to get the Tregs, and I’m still producing a significant amount of my own insulin.”

“The good news from our trial from the 14 adults enrolled, is that the procedure was very well tolerated. This has now set the stage for us to move ahead with a Stage 2 trial,” says Dr Gitelman.

The next stage of this research is the start of a clinical trial of 100 people in California to see if the Treg infusion can slow or reverse T1D progression in the newly diagnosed.

“JDRF was instrumental in funding this research. They really got us from a very basic exploratory side of this potential therapy, through the pre-clinical studies, and they funded the Phase I study. Without JDRF, I don’t know that this work could have happened,” says Dr Gitelman.

To watch a JDRF video on the results of the first stage of the Tregs trial, click here.

To read the ADA conference abstract about Phase I of the trial, click here.


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