Diabetes drug may be breakthrough

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Hopes of a breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes have been raised by a report that an experimental drug can halt the progression of the disease and reduce the need for insulin injections.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes have been raised by a report that an experimental drug can halt the progression of the disease and reduce the need for insulin injections.

Tests on 35 people who had been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the more serious form of the disease – have shown the drug can prevent the destruction of insulin-producing cells.

One researcher said the results, published today in The Lancet, were a "breakthrough" because for the first time the progression of diabetes had been "successfully arrested" during clinical trials.

About 10 per cent of diabetics, or about 140,000 Britons, have type 1 diabetes. It usually develops in children and young adults and is caused by the immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Studies of mice suggested that a protein derivative, the peptide DiaPep277, could halt the destruction of these cells and maintain the production of insulin, which is essential to take glucose out of the blood and store it in the liver.

A team at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical School in Israel tested the peptide on humans. The results showed they had substantially higher levels of insulin derivatives in their blood than a control group in the months after the treatment, and they needed fewer insulin injections. More trials are now being run.

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