Aussie vaccine study ahead by a nose

Melbourne researchers are a step closer to an ambitious goal: preventing type 1 diabetes altogether.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial held at Royal Melbourne Hospital has shown that a nasal insulin vaccine can suppress the immunological reaction against insulin.

The study, published in Diabetes in April, included 52 adults in early stages of type 1 diabetes – none yet required insulin, but they did have evidence of immunity to pancreatic beta cells. Participants were given either a nasal insulin vaccine or a placebo each week for 12 months. In the group given the vaccine, immune tolerance was restored and, later, when they received insulin injections, they were found to be desensitised to insulin.

Professor Len Harrison of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, which is collaborating with Royal Melbourne to develop the vaccine, says the vaccine works by stimulating the immune system present in the mucosal linings of the nasal passage.