Researchers at the Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia are testing a nasal vaccine that could help prevent Type I diabetes, a disease which occurs when a person's own immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. That leads to a lack of insulin, which causes serious health issues and must be treated with frequent shots of the hormone.
The study included 52 adults with early signs of the disease who were given either the nasal spray or placebo. "The results showed that the vaccine allowed the immune system to restore immune tolerance to insulin," said Institute Professor Len Harrison in a statement. "When subsequently given insulin by injection, the participants who had received the nasal insulin vaccine were found to be desensitized to insulin."
The vaccine works by training the body's immune system not to attack insulin. By desensitizing the immune system, white blood cells are no longer prompted to attack insulin-producing pancreatic cells. Nasal delivery bypasses the gut, which would break down the insulin and render it ineffective. Harrison added that if successful for Type I diabetes, the vaccine could also be tested for other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.