One of the toughest challenges in halting or reversing the
autoimmune process that destroys beta cells and causes type 1 diabetes is doing
so in a way that does not compromise a person’s entire immune system. Antigen-specific immune
therapy research, which targets only a specific part of the immune system, is a
key part of JDRF’s strategy
to cure T1D. Results
from a recent study involving an animal model of multiple sclerosis have
confirmed that using nanoparticles may represent an exciting and relatively new
approach to antigen-specific immune therapies that could help stop the
autoimmune process for people with various autoimmune diseases, including T1D.
by Dr. Stephen Miller and his colleagues at Northwestern University involves
the use of a nanoparticle-based immune therapy as a treatment for the
autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). In this research,
the investigators used biodegradable nanoparticles containing MS-related
antigen components to reset the immune system balance and create immune
tolerance in an animal model of MS. JDRF provided partial support for
this work because of its relevance to T1D immune therapies.
The use of nanoparticles–
very small packages as a way to deliver components that trigger the immune
system – appears to have the ability to effectively mimic the natural immune
system tolerance processes. Such nanoparticles allow the delivery of
multiple important triggers of immune tolerance, should minimize side effects
by being more specific to T1D, and allow better control of the production of
the particles to specifically modify the immune response. While this research has so far only been
conducted in mice, if successfully applied to humans, it could provide a
potential pathway to controlling the autoimmunity that underlies T1D.
JDRF has been at the forefront of driving research using
nanoparticles to benefit people with T1D.
In addition to branching out and funding Dr. Miller’s study on MS
because of its relevance to T1D, JDRF has a robust portfolio of other promising
research it is funding in this area.
JDRF’s recent and current funding commitments to research involving
nanoparticles total over $6 million.
Included in this research are other
studies by Dr. Miller that specifically focus on T1D. In this research, Dr. Miller is attempting to
use nanoparticles to help achieve immune tolerance for transplanted
insulin-producing islet cells. Another JDRF-funded study in this area that has
received attention is one conducted by Dr. Pere Santamaria at the University of
nanoparticles to restore the balance among the T cells and stop the autoimmune
process in T1D. His work involves assembling triggers of the immune
system onto a nanoparticle, including specific T1D antigens. It has shown that protective T cells still exist in T1D, but just
not enough of them to properly control the autoimmune process. By dosing mice
with his nanoparticles, Dr. Santamaria has been able to increase the numbers of
the protective T cells resulting in a
rebalancing of the T cells and halting the autoimmune process.
In addition to the research led by Dr. Miller and Dr.
Santamaria, JDRF’s nanoparticle portfolio includes an industry partnership with
as well as studies being conducted by Dr.
Eric Bachelder at Ohio State University, Dr.
Nick Giannoukakis at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr.
Teresa DiLorenzo at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr.
Francisco Quintana at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and others.