Touching Lives - October 2012
How a skin cream could help improve a diabetes vaccine
The last 50 years have brought a worrying increase in the number of children with type 1 diabetes. A vaccine is now in clinical trials and Action funding has enabled the team of researchers to discover how a steroid skin cream could make that vaccine more effective.
Children with type 1 diabetes are dependent on life-saving injections of the hormone insulin. Without these injections, dangerous fluctuations in a child’s blood sugar levels can prove fatal. Unsurprisingly, a lot of children don’t manage to control their blood sugar levels well enough to prevent serious long-term complications. Those risks include eyesight problems, kidney disease, foot ulcers, heart attacks and strokes. Researchers have been keen to find a way to strengthen a vaccine against the disease. Type 1 diabetes occurs when a child’s immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
Lead researcher Professor Colin Dayan and his team in Cardiff have begun clinical trials of a vaccine and devised a way to make that vaccine more effective. They looked at whether treating the skin at the site of injection with a cream could reduce inflammation, improving the effectiveness of the vaccine in protecting the pancreas from destruction. First they tested a variety of creams on volunteers before injecting them with a harmless water solution. Then adults with type 1 diabetes used the creams before receiving the trial vaccine. The tests were a success and a steroid cream has been shown to be the most effective pre-vaccination. It is hoped this will lead to the development of treatments to improve insulin production and blood sugar levels.