Get our Voices Dispatches email for a comprehensive summary of the top opinions of the week. Register now!
Join our Voices newsletter for free every week.
According to researchers, a medication frequently prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis has the ability to halt the advancement of type 1 diabetes in individuals who have been recently diagnosed.
In a groundbreaking experiment, scientists in Australia have determined that baricitinib, sold as Olumiant in the UK, can safeguard the body’s natural insulin production and decrease the necessary insulin dosage for managing the ailment.
In their publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers described their findings as a significant advancement in the management and treatment of type 1 diabetes. They believe that their work has the potential to greatly improve the control of this condition.
Helen Thomas, a professor at St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne and the preclinical lead for the trial, expressed confidence that this treatment will soon be available for clinical use.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the body’s immune system erroneously targets and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Individuals who have type 1 diabetes rely on external administration of insulin in order to sustain their lives.
Around 8.4 million individuals globally were estimated to have type 1 diabetes in 2021, and this number is expected to increase to 17.4 million by 2040.
About 8% of individuals in the UK who have diabetes are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
According to the researchers, a significant amount of cells that produce insulin remain in the body at the time of initial diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Thomas Kay from St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, who was in charge of the study, explained: “Our goal was to determine if we could prevent any additional damage to these cells caused by the body’s immune response.”
The researchers enlisted 91 individuals, ranging from 10 to 30 years old, to participate in the trial, which was sponsored by JDRF, a non-profit organization dedicated to studying type 1 diabetes.
Since it was a double-blind randomized study, both the researchers and the volunteers were unaware of which participants (60) were assigned to take baricitinib and which were given a placebo (31).
All participants in the study had recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and followed their prescribed insulin treatment for the entire duration of the research.
The scientists observed the overall amount of insulin taken per day, the body’s insulin production, and their blood glucose levels.
The findings indicated that individuals in the baricitinib group were able to safely and successfully maintain their body’s natural insulin production and prevent the advancement of type 1 diabetes.
It is believed that the medication functions by reducing the body’s immune response to insulin-producing cells in individuals with type 1 diabetes.
Although insulin has life-saving potential, the scientists warn that it can also be hazardous if given in incorrect doses.
Professor Kay expressed his enthusiasm about being the first group to test baricitinib as a potential treatment for type 1 diabetes.
Previously, individuals with type 1 diabetes had to depend on insulin administered through either injections or an infusion pump.
“Our experiment demonstrated that by initiating treatment soon after diagnosis and maintaining medication usage, the participants were able to maintain their insulin production.”
“In the study, individuals with type 1 diabetes who were administered the medication needed significantly lower doses of insulin for their treatment.”
In regards to the study, Dr. Faye Riley, the research communications manager at Diabetes UK, expressed enthusiasm for the promising outcomes of immunotherapy trials aimed at halting the progression of type 1 diabetes.
For over a century, individuals with type 1 diabetes have been dependent on insulin. However, recent research reveals that by addressing the underlying cause of this disease – an attack on the immune system – an already existing medication can protect the pancreas in those who have recently been diagnosed with type 1. This allows them to maintain insulin production for a longer period of time.
This can provide individuals with type 1 diabetes more consistent blood sugar levels and potentially prevent severe diabetes complications in the future.
“Advancements in immunotherapy are leading us towards a new phase in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, and may assist in overcoming a significant obstacle on the path to discovering a cure for the disease.”
“This trial brings us one step closer.”