New study brings new hope

The 75th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association was held June 5-9 in Boston, and with it came big news! While I’m hesitant to get too excited, the advancement of anything that could possibly cure this disease is something to get at least a little giddy about, right? Heck, that the FDA actually approved something might be enough to cheer about in and of itself. But I digress.

See, at the conference, it was announced that the FDA has approved a mid-stage trial to test a vaccine that has been around for nearly a century. This vaccine, called bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), is used to prevent tuberculosis, but it has shown promise in reversing type 1 diabetes. Yes, reversing! Not preventing (Although I’m hoping that comes too), but actually reversing it in people who have been dealing with this every second of the day and night for as long as they can remember! It will be studied in 150 adults with advanced cases of type 1 diabetes (Advanced cases … That’s a nice way of saying people who have been dealing with this every second of every day and night for as long as they can remember). In type 1 diabetes, the body attacks insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas leaving the person unable to produce insulin. We must get it (and try to do so perfectly) from injections or insulin pumps, oh what fun!

Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Immunobiology Laboratory in Boston and the super smart person heading up this study, said the vaccine temporarily raises levels of a substance called tumor necrosis factor, or TNF (Wow, I didn’t think I’d ever be happy to have more of something that starts with tumor). The higher TNF levels can eliminate the damaging T cells in the blood of individuals with type 1 diabetes. A smaller study was done and Faustman’s team found that two BCG injections given four weeks apart temporarily eliminated diabetes-causing T cells. The people getting those injections also showed evidence of a small, temporary return of insulin secretion.

This summer the super-smart doctors will begin enrolling patients ages 18 to 60 in a larger five-year trial. Participants will have low but detectable levels of insulin secretion from the pancreas. They’ll receive two injections, four weeks apart, of either BCG or placebo, and then annual injections for the next four years.

Wow! I can not imagine hearing that my pancreas is actually making insulin! I can’t help but wonder how I would feel? I would think having some or your own insulin would have to make your body feel different even if it is just a little bit. I mean the only thing I know is what it feels like to have synthetic insulin running through me. I could be way off, but I imagine it feeling like taking a big, deep, breath just relaxing, and cleansing, and healthy. Did I go to far out there? Sorry, it made sense in my head (Smiley face emoticon). Before I start drifting off into fantasy land where I actually make my own insulin, let’s check back in with reality.

This study will consist of 150 people. If it is successful, a larger study will be done. OK, so this study is set to take five years and you’re telling me if it’s successful there has to be another study after that? Looks like I won’t be making my own insulin anytime soon! Oh well, something that has some promise has been given FDA approval to move forward with the next step. For now, I’ll just be grateful for that!