MAY 08, 2024 1:52 PM PDT

Immune Cell Infusions "Too Little Too Late" for Children with Type 1 Diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Amielle Moreno

The Role of Tregs in Autoimmune Disorders

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced immune system and safeguarding against chronic inflammatory diseases and autoimmune conditions. Scientists have long speculated that bolstering or introducing Tregs into the body could hold significant promise for tackling autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes. In this condition, the immune system mistakenly targets and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. 

Early-phase trials primarily focused on evaluating the safety of Treg therapies in adults with type 1 diabetes. However, a key question looms large: can this treatment strategy intercept the onset of type 1 diabetes in children?

Phase 2 Clinical Trial: Treg Infusions in Children with Type 1 Diabetes

Recently published in Science Translational Medicine, a phase 2 clinical trial examined the efficacy of regulatory T cells (Tregs) infusions in children with type 1 diabetes. The trial, which was well-powered and used a blinded design, included 110 children who were divided into groups receiving either a placebo or low or high doses of expanded Tregs.

Intriguing Trial Findings and Implications

The trial revealed intriguing results: a single infusion of Tregs appeared to effectively transfer cells in children, regardless of the dosage. However, although the infusions were safe, they did not succeed in preserving insulin-releasing cells in the pancreas. Notably, the study suggested that "perhaps even the best Treg monotherapies may be too little, too late when offered shortly after clinical diagnosis at stage 3," hinting at the need for earlier intervention strategies.

Despite the promise of Treg therapy, the trial's outcomes underscore the complexities of treating type 1 diabetes. A single dose of expanded Tregs did not significantly alter disease progression in children. "Our study highlights the need to better understand exp Treg biology and consider new avenues for the improvement of current adoptive Treg therapies," concludes Bender and co-authors.

This study sheds light on the evolving landscape of autoimmune therapy, sparking discussions on optimizing treatment strategies for type 1 diabetes. Further research into Treg biology and innovative combination therapies could pave the way for more effective interventions in the future.

Sources: Science Translational Medicine, NCT02691247, NIH

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Amielle Moreno earned her doctorate in neuroscience from Emory University and has dedicated her career to science communication, news coverage, and academic writing/editing. She is a published researcher who has branched out to author articles for various science websites. She recently published an original research article detailing her findings on how sensory areas of the brain respond to social sound. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her spinning the latest neuroscience news into comedy gold, hosting her podcast "Miss Behavior Journal Club." This fortnightly humorous podcast features the latest in behavioral research. Her goal in life is to defend and discover scientific truths.
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