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One of the most intriguing areas of type 1 diabetes research focuses on newly diagnosed patients. Given that the disease occurs after an autoimmune response damages the body's insulin-producing beta cells, scientists have looked to new type 1s as fertile ground for experimentation.
After all, their beta cells have only been attacked recently, and their pancreases might still function to a limited extent.
Thus, new drugs are aiming to keep the pancreas and its beta cells working longer and better for those in the early stages of type 1. One of those new drugs, specifically designed for the purpose, has just had a positive report. According to scientists, teplizumab allowed some patients to preserve their current insulin levels for some two years.
But the news wasn't all good. About half of the people receiving the drug stopped producing insulin altogether-a response that was similar to patients in a control group.
So what was the difference? Why did half of the patients get good news and half bad? Jeffrey Bluestone, of the University of California, San Francisco, was co-leader of the study. He said the patients who did best with the drug had both good blood glucose control and a smaller need for insulin shots. In other words, these were the patients who were the most likely to have active beta cells.
"The benefits of treatment among the patients who still had moderately healthy insulin production suggests that the sooner we can detect the pre-diabetes condition and get this kind of drug onboard, the more people we can protect from the progressive damage caused by an autoimmune attack," Bluestone said.
The teplizumab study appeared in Diabetes, the journal of the American Diabetes Association.