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'Reverse vaccine' for diabetes passes test

| Saturday, June 29, 2013, 6:57 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — A “reverse vaccine” that allows people with Type 1 diabetes to produce their own insulin has passed its first test with human subjects, according to a new study. The success points to a potential strategy for treating those in the early stages of the disease, experts said.

The therapy is designed to protect cells in the pancreas that make insulin, a hormone the body needs to convert sugars and starches into energy. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the immune system goes haywire and attacks those crucial insulin-producing cells for reasons that medical researchers don't understand.

Researchers dubbed the treatment a reverse vaccine because it suppresses the immune system, instead of stimulating it. As hoped, the experimental vaccine reduced the number of immune system “killer” cells that went on the attack.

“We're trying to turn off one specific immune response,” said Dr. Lawrence Steinman, an immunologist at Stanford University and senior author of the study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

About 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes.

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