A JDRF-funded clinical trial is recruiting volunteers in the US to test the safety and feasibility of using regulatory T cells as a therapy for type 1 diabetes.
T cells are an important part of your immune system and there are a number of different types. Killer T cells play a vital role in the autoimmune attack that causes type 1 diabetes. Normally, these cells are kept in check by regulatory T cells, but in someone with type 1 diabetes these two types of T cell are out of balance.
This Phase I trial, led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), aims to redress the balance by increasing the numbers of regulatory T cells. To do this, the researchers will first take blood samples from each volunteer. They will then isolate their T cells before multiplying them 1000-fold in the laboratory before infusing them back into the volunteer’s body.
If successful, this could pave the way for a Phase II trial testing whether the addition of regulatory T cells is able to stabilise the destruction of insulin producing beta cells.
Professor Stephen Gitelman, one of the lead investigators of the study at UCSF said: "For all these years, we have been looking outside of the patient to fight the autoimmune response that leads to type 1 diabetes, but now the answer may lie within the patients themselves."