An antibody previously shown to stave off type 1 diabetes produces its benefits by shoring up the function of insulin-making cells — an effect strong enough to partially reverse problems with the body’s insulin supply.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune cells attack the insulin-secreting β-cells in the pancreas. A landmark clinical trial published in 2019 showed that a two-week treatment of the antibody teplizumab slowed the progression of type 1 diabetes in people at high risk of the disease.
Kevan Herold at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and his colleagues extended that study and found that the effects of teplizumab persisted: the median time to develop diabetes was five years in people who took the antibody but slightly more than two years in people who took a placebo. Half of the people who took teplizumab weren’t diagnosed with the disease over the course of the study, compared with 22% on the placebo.
The team showed that teplizumab improved the function of β-cells and partially reversed pre-existing declines in study participants’ insulin secretion. Researchers also found evidence that the antibody works by impairing the ability of immune cells called CD8+ T cells to launch an autoimmune response.