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Arthritis therapy stops diabetes in its tracks

Medicine@Yale, 2008 - Mar Apr


In type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, the T cells of the immune system attack the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin, making it impossible for the body to control blood sugar levels. B cells are also involved in the process but their exact role is unclear.

Drugs that deplete B cells have been effective in controlling other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and some forms of lymphoma. Li Wen, M.D., Ph.D., senior research scientist in the Department of Medicine, wondered if the same approach might be useful in treating type 1 diabetes.

Using mice that were specially bred to be predisposed to the disease, Wen and her colleagues found that rituximab, an antibody that binds to B cells, could delay the onset of diabetes in mice that had not yet developed it. As reported in the December issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, in additional experiments, some mice with diabetes no longer needed insulin after they had received the antibody treatment.

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