woman injecting insulinGETTYThe breakthrough could rid of insulin injectionsScientists are convinced the debilitating effects of Type 1 diabetes can be reversed with a cheap jab used to combat tuberculosis.
Unlike lifestyle-driven Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to obesity, Type 1 is an auto immune disease that, until now, was thought to be incurable.
But a major breakthrough could see the chronic condition - known as early onset diabetes - wiped out within years.
Researchers think the generic Bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG) jab, administered to tens of millions of children each year, can help regenerate insulin-making cells, effectively reversing the condition.
The BCG vaccine is up to 80 per cent effective in preventing TB for 15 years.
Results of initial tests in those who had diabetes for an average of 15 years suggest insulin production can be restored, albeit briefly, by a simple booster injection.
This is a cheap and generic drug that could be very effective and we’ve been saying that message over and over ahead since the startDr Denise FaustmanThe astonishing outcome is considered so significant £12million is being ploughed into a second five-year trial.
Experts in Britain described the quantum leap as “very exciting”.
Dr Denise Faustman, who is leading the research, said: “We decided to use a safe 100-year-old vaccine to make this happen and we’ve found that it works.
“We saw early signs that even at low doses of this vaccine the bad white blood cells that were killing the pancreas were killed and the good white blood cells that quiet down Type 1 diabetes were up-regulated.
“This is a cheap and generic drug that could be very effective and we’ve been saying that message over and over ahead since the start.”
Diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose in the blood becomes too high because the body cannot use it properly.
Woman working in a labGETTYThe new research could be a medical breakthrough for diabetesThis happens when the pancreas does not produce any insulin (Type 1), or not enough insulin to help glucose enter the body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly, known as insulin resistance (Type 2).
Type 1 can develop at any age, but usually appears before the age of 40, particularly in childhood.
Patients lose their ability to make insulin and have to replace it for the rest of their lives.
Sufferers have a relative deficiency in a hormone known as TNF but scientists believe by administering a natural vaccine boosting TNF, bad white blood cells could be zapped and the pancreas regenerated.
Dr Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said: “In long-term diabetics we could see the targeted death of bad T-cells.
"We also saw the beginnings of pancreas regeneration. Sure, no one was throwing insulin syringes away yet, because it was just the beginning...but it showed that this could be done. And importantly, this was in long-term Type 1s with 15 to 20 years - that rattled a lot of people.
Related articlesStudent believed to be bulimic after gorging on 5000 calories a day actually had DIABETES15 minute 'sleeve' implant to revolutionise type 2 diabetes treatmentLazy Britain URGED to make lifestyle changes ahead of diabetes epidemic“We are going to look at how much BCG is needed and how frequently. That’s the key, the secret: knowing how much to dose.
“These aren’t fast trials by any means. We have a five-year follow-up but that’s important because after more than two years the effects become monumentally more significant.
“We know this is worth it, because data now shows from Europe that using BCG compared to the standard of care is most effective.
“Ten years ago no one used the R-word (regeneration) and we weren’t allowed to use that in our science papers.
“That’s changed over time and now it’s a common concept everyone is going after. We have come a long way in thinking how the human pancreas does this very slowly, like in MS where it takes five years.”
The lives of 4million people are now blighted by diabetes and the scale of the epidemic gripping Britain is so great treating the condition costs the NHS £10billion a year, or £1million an hour.
Diabetes can lead to a number of serious long-term health problems like blindness, heart and kidney disease and stroke and the furring and narrowing of blood vessels.
Karen Addington, chief executive of Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “Those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin every day simply to stay alive. It is a serious and demanding condition and it’s on the rise in the UK, especially in children under the age of five.
“Vaccine research holds real potential for helping to delay or even prevent Type 1 diabetes in those at high genetic risk. Achieving this would be an important step towards discovery of the cure for the condition, taking us towards a world without Type 1 diabetes.
"We will be watching Dr Faustman’s progress with keen interest.”