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article imageFinnish diabetes breakthrough may lead to vaccine

By Martin Laine     Oct 22, 2013 in Health
Researchers at Tampere University in Finland have identified a virus they believe causes Type I diabetes. A prototype vaccine has already been developed and successfully tested in mice.
“We have identified one virus type that carries the biggest risk,” said Prof. Heikki Hyoty, lead researcher on the project, in an interview with Yle, the Finnish national broadcasting service. “A vaccine could also protect against its close relatives, to give the best possible effect.”
Known as an enterovirus, it penetrates the pancreas and destroys its insulin-making capability. Other enteroviruses are known to cause such diseases as polio and meningitis.
According to a Tampere University press release, Type I diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in childhood, with some 15 million people worldwide affected by it. It differs from the more common Type II diabetes, when the pancreas still produces some insulin, but not enough.
The next step is to conduct clinical trials in humans, but that may be difficult.
“We know that this vaccine is effective in mice,” Prof. Hyoty said. “It is important to test it in people so that we can be sure that the vaccine prevents diabetes.”
But clinical trials don’t come cheap, and testing this vaccine could cost some 700 million euros, or nearly $1 billion. The researchers have secured some of the funding, but not all of it.
“Money is the biggest obstacle in testing in humans at the moment,” Prof. Hyoty said. “I’m optimistic the funding will come.”
More about Type I diabetes, Tampere University, Heikki Hyoty
 
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