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New vision for type 1 diabetes

JDRF has joined forces with UK biotech company KalVista to bring hope to type 1 diabetes patients at risk of vision complications.

This new research collaboration will help KalVista begin first in human trials with a new drug they have developed to treat diabetic retinopathy.

KalVista are working on a therapy that may improve or delay the symptoms of diabetic eye disease. The drug may help to protect the blood vessels in the eye that are often damaged in diabetic eye disease and can lead to vision loss. They hope that protecting these blood vessels may prevent or slow down vision problems. The new drug can be delivered straight to the eye and this study aims to tests its safety in humans.

Diabetic eye disease or diabetic retinopathy is the most common and most serious eye related complication in patients with type 1 diabetes. It causes swelling of part of the eye and destroys small blood vessels leading to loss of vision. A treatment to prevent or slow its progression would be a major benefit to patients.

The partnership with KalVista is particularly important as it allows this novel therapy, move from basic research – which was also supported by JDRF – towards clinical testing.

Head of research communication at JDRF Rachel Connor said ‘we are very excited about this partnership with KalVista and believe that this approach could make a difference to thousands of people affected by type 1 diabetes at risk of diabetic retinopathy’.


Time for more T regulatory cells

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."