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Rodent of the Week: A nanovaccine reverses diabetes in mice

April 9, 2010 |  1:00 pm

Rodent Researchers are finding clever ways to explore nanotechnology for medical therapies. In a study published Thursday in the journal Immunity, researchers used a "nanovaccine" to reverse diabetes in mice with the disease.

Nanoparticles are spheres that are thousands of times smaller than any type of cell. Researchers at the University of Calgary, in Alberta, focused on correcting the autoimmune attack that occurs in diabetes.

In Type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing pancreatic cells are destroyed by T-cells. T-cells are needed in many other functions in the body, however, to fight infections and foreign substances. In diabetes, good T-cells battle against other types of T-cells that cause the disease. The researchers created a vaccine consisting of nanoparticles coated with a protein to help the immune system stop the action of the aggressive T-cells. The diabetic mice receiving the vaccine eventually developed normal blood sugar levels.

Theoretically, this type of nanovaccine could be used on other autoimmune diseases to target the part of the immune system that needs to be corrected. Much work remains before this research translates to future use in humans. Among the questions: How safe are therapies consisting of nanoparticles?

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Advanced Cell Technology Inc.