UK & World News

  • 11 May 2013, 6:40

Type 1 Diabetes: Vaccine 'Could Delay Onset'

A vaccine for Type 1 diabetes that could transform the lives of those at high risk of the condition could be available within the next 20 years, according to a charity.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Diabetes UK's director of research, said a vaccine was now a realistic prospect.

It would represent the biggest single breakthrough in diabetes research since insulin was first successfully used to treat Type 1 diabetes 91 years ago.

Despite decades of research since then, no vaccine has been found to prevent the disease.

But scientists say treatments that fall short of preventing development of Type 1 diabetes altogether could still potentially reduce health complications if they give patients even a slightly longer period before they have to take insulin or allow them to continue to make small amounts of their own insulin.

The condition, which is not linked to lifestyle, sees the body's own immune system attack the pancreas. There are around 300,000 people in the UK with Type 1 diabetes.

Dr Rankin said: "We tend to think of Type 1 diabetes as unavoidable but there is a huge sense of excitement in the research community that the work being done today is building towards a future where Type 1 diabetes can be stopped in its tracks.

"This is not, of course, going to happen overnight. It is likely that the first vaccines we see will allow people to live longer before they develop Type 1 diabetes, rather than preventing it entirely.

"But we know that if people who do develop Type 1 diabetes are treated early with a vaccine then it could provide some benefits that make their condition easier to manage and improve their health in the long term.

"We would also expect treatments to get gradually better as we understand more about how the immune system works in people with Type 1 diabetes.

"It has the potential to be one of the really big medical breakthroughs in the first half of the 21st Century."

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