In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells that make insulin, which the body needs to process sugar. The drug teplizumab, an immunotherapy, is intended to prevent or delay diabetes by reining in the immune response. In a clinical trial led by Kevan Herold, MD, C.N.H. Long Professor of Immunobiology and professor of medicine (endocrinology), teplizumab did indeed prevent or delay the clinical diagnosis.
Study participants, who did not have diabetes but were at high risk of developing it, received an intravenous infusion of teplizumab or a placebo on 14 consecutive days. Thereafter, they were monitored for developing diabetes.
As Herold and colleagues reported in Science Translational Medicine, study participants who received the drug developed diabetes in a median of five years, compared with just over two years in participants assigned the placebo.
Any delay in developing type 1 diabetes is significant, especially for kids participating in studies like this one, Herold says. Such a reprieve could mean, for example, attending primary school disease free.