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University of Maryland Researchers Test Oral Insulin's Effect on Delaying Type-1 Diabetes

University of Maryland researchers are participating in an international clinical study to learn whether swallowing an insulin pill each day can prevent or delay type-1 diabetes in some people at risk for the disease. This method could be the first strategy available to delay the disease, which has been on the rise each year, especially in children under age five.

"Our goal is to prevent type-1 diabetes or to delay it as long as possible," said Debra Counts, M.D., head of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "If diabetes can be delayed, even for a few years, those at risk may be able to postpone the difficult challenges of trying to control their glucose levels and development of serious complications, which include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney damage and lower-limb amputations."

For the study, Dr. Counts and her colleagues are investigating whether one insulin capsule a day can prevent or delay type-1 diabetes in a specific high-risk group. An earlier clinical trial suggested that oral insulin might delay the onset of type-1 diabetes by about four years in certain people. Some scientists think that introducing insulin via the digestive tract induces tolerance, or a quieting of the immune system. Oral insulin has no known side effects.

The University of Maryland Medical Center is recruiting family members of people with type-1 diabetes to participate in the current study, because diabetes has a genetic component and tends to run in families. With type-1 diabetes, a person’s pancreas no longer produces insulin that is necessary for controlling blood sugar. The researchers are particularly interested in including people in the study who have a high level of specific auto-antibodies in their blood. These auto-antibodies, which signify an increased risk for developing the disease, can be identified up to 10 years before the onset of diabetes. Screening involves a simple blood test and is free of charge.

The University of Maryland Medical Center is one of more than 150 medical centers in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia participating in this study as part of Type-1 Diabetes TrialNet, a global network of diabetes researchers dedicated to the study, prevention and early treatment of type-1 diabetes. It is funded by the National Institutes of Health and supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International and the American Diabetes Association.
Those interested in volunteering for the study should call 410-328-5419.

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