Regulators in the USA have approved a ‘game-changing’ immunotherapy drug that has been proven to delay the development of type 1 diabetes.
Experts say teplizumab marks a ‘new era’ in treatment, tackling the root cause of the condition for the first time, rather than just the symptoms.
It works by reprogramming the immune system to stop it from mistakenly attacking pancreatic cells which produce insulin.
It is likely to pave the way for approval decisions in other countries.
About 8.7 million people have type 1 diabetes worldwide. In the UK, the condition affects 400,000 people, including more than 29,000 children.
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks key cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Insulin is crucial in helping the body use sugar for energy. Nearly all current treatments focus on people checking their blood sugars and taking insulin by injection or infusion on a daily basis.
In 2019, a trial showed that the drug delayed some people at high risk of the condition from developing it for an average of two years.
Experts say this delay can be very significant, particularly for young people who would not have to take daily insulin or monitor their sugars as intensively for that period of time.
They suggest people could also spend more years with their blood sugars in a healthy range, offering more time to be protected from the complications of high blood sugars such as kidney or eye disease.
Rachel Connor, from the JDRF UK charity, which part-funded the trial, said: “This is a game-changer. To me, this is the start of a new era for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
“It is the first time we are able to get to the heart of why the condition develops and help change the process, so we are not just treating the symptoms anymore.
“Once we can do that, we can find other ways to do it better and for longer.”
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