Tuberculosis vaccine will help cure diabetes
Anna Govorova, Infox.ru
American doctors have proposed using a conventional vaccine against tuberculosis – the well–known BCG - for the treatment of patients with type 1 diabetes, reports Infox. The first phase of clinical trials of this method has already been successful, and now the authors are preparing for the second phase.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a serious disease in which pancreatic cells stop synthesizing the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. Many organs and systems of the body are seriously affected by this. It is believed that type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease when a person's own immunity is attacked not by foreign bacteria, viruses that have invaded the body, but by their own healthy cells – pancreatic cells.
Studies show that such an attack is carried out by autoreactive T-lymphocytes. Actually, these lymphocytes are also present in healthy people, but their activity is controlled by T-regulatory cells (in Western literature they are called Tregs). T-regulatory cells are important agents of the immune system: they protect the body not only from autoimmune diseases, but also from the formation of tumors. But in patients with type 1 diabetes, Tregs for some reason are not formed in sufficient quantities, so they do not cope with their task, as a result, T-lymphocytes freely attack the pancreas, disrupting its work.
It must be said that doctors have long drawn attention to this feature of the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus. And they tried to interfere in the process, stopping the disease. But attempts to directly introduce Tregs cells into the body of patients did not lead to anything – the cells in this case did not take root and died.
In their current study, scientists led by Denis Faustman, director of the Immunological Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, dispensed with any implantation of cells – they found a way by which the body itself began to synthesize Tregs.
They conducted an experiment and found out that the BCG anti-tuberculosis vaccine leads to the activation of genes responsible for the synthesis of Tregs. As a result, the population of these cells begins to grow in the body of patients, and they actively interfere with T-lymphocytes that destroy the pancreas.
"Many scientists in their works have noted the effect of the BCG vaccine on autoimmune processes. Studies are being conducted on how autoimmune diseases can be treated with this vaccine. But surprisingly, we were able to show for the first time that this vaccine triggers the genes responsible for the synthesis of Tregs cells through epigenetic mechanisms. It turns out that in this way we can influence the very cause of the development of type 1 diabetes," says Faustman (in a press release, Massachusetts General Hospital launches phase II trial of BCG vaccine to reverse type 1 diabetes – VM).
So far, the authors add, it is difficult to say exactly how the vaccine activates the necessary genes. But as Dr. Faustman suggests, it is based on a very ancient relationship between the causative agent of tuberculosis - mycobacterium - with the human body, a relationship that has existed for many millennia of human history.
Dr. Faustman and her colleagues have already successfully conducted the first phase of clinical trials of their method. And now they are preparing for the second phase, in which 150 people will take part.
The authors reported on the preparation for this stage of their research at the annual conference of the American Association for the Study of Diabetes Mellitus, which is currently taking place in Boston.
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