In the United States alone, 1.25 million people suffer from type 1 diabetes. A vaccine used over 100 years ago for tuberculosis (bacillus Calmette-Guerin ) has shown promise in reversing this disease. This vaccine is now commonly used for treating bladder cancer and is considered to be safe.
An announcement made yesterday at the 75th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association said that the FDA will test the vaccine on 150 people who are in an advanced stage of type one diabetes.
The body of a person with type 1 diabetes does not produce insulin due to the immune system destroying the cells that create insulin. T cells are produced, and these cells create problems in the pancreatic islets, where insulin is produced. The vaccine works by eliminating these T cells.
Patients with diabetes injected with the vaccine saw an increase in the levels of a substance called tumor necrosis factor. The increased level of TNF in the system destroys the T cells that are hindering the production of insulin.
In a previous trial, patients were injected with the tuberculosis vaccine twice within a four-week time frame. The results showed that the dangerous T cells were gone, and some people even began to secrete insulin on their own.
Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Immunobiology Laboratory in Boston, is very excited about the results the BCG vaccine has been showing.