Researchers at Oxford University (UK) are offering powdered insulin to babies at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes (T1D) with the hope of training their immune systems to tolerate the insulin they produce, thereby offering life-long protection against the disease.
The goal of POInT (Primary Oral Insulin Trial) is to introduce immune tolerance to insulin, as T1D results from the body’s defense system attacking and destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Researchers will perform a prick blood test to screen the eligibility of 300,000 babies who have been identified with high chances of getting T1D through genetic markers.
From the age of about six months until they are three years old, children in the trial will then be given a small dose of insulin powder daily together with a meal. Half of the study participants will be offered the real insulin while the other half will receive a placebo (capsule containing no drug). In order to assess the efficacy of the treatment, neither the children nor the investigators will know which capsules contain insulin and which contain a placebo. The children’s health will be monitored via visits from the research team.
Previous studies have shown that oral administration of insulin is safe and does not affect sugar levels. Researchers are hopeful this pioneering therapy will become a preventive treatment in the future for all babies with an elevated genetic predisposition for T1D.
POInT is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research, JDRF, Diabetes UK and the Wellcome Trust, as well as the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
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