Touching Lives - March 2010
Preparing the way for a vaccine to prevent type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease, usually diagnosed in children or young adults, that affects around 350,000 people in the UK. There has been a major increase in the numbers of children suffering from type 1 diabetes over the past 50 years and children under the age of five are increasingly affected.
The cells which normally produce insulin in the pancreas are destroyed by the body's own immune system, leaving sufferers dependant on multiple daily insulin injections to control their blood sugar. Without insulin treatment the condition would be fatal.
It may be possible in the future to vaccinate against type 1 diabetes by altering the activity of the immune system using parts of the proteins which are found in the cells in the pancreas.
Researchers from the University of Bristol, led successfully by Dr Colin Dayan, are hopeful that if such a vaccine is developed, they could help improve its effectiveness by preparing the skin of the injection site first.
The development of a vaccine against type 1 diabetes would revolutionise treatment of the condition and, if successful with their project to improve the effectiveness of such a vaccine, Dr Dayan and his team would make an important contribution to the future treatment of this potentially life-threatening condition.