University of Calgary


April 14, 2010

Nanoparticle vaccine cures Type 1 diabetes in mice

Dr. Pere Santamaria
Using a sophisticated nanotechnology-based "vaccine," researchers were able to successfully cure mice with Type 1 diabetes and slow the onset of the disease in mice at risk for the disease. The study, conducted at the University of Calgary was published April 8 in the online edition of the scientific journal Immunity.

The study co-funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, provides new and important insights into understanding how to stop the immune attack that causes Type 1 diabetes, and could even have implications for other autoimmune diseases.

The research was led by Dr. Pere Santamaria, Chair of the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre in University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine. The researchers were looking to specifically stop the autoimmune response that causes Type 1 diabetes without damaging the immune cells that provide protection against infections—what is called an "antigen-specific" immunotherapy. Type 1 diabetes is caused when certain white blood cells (called T cells) mistakenly attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

"Essentially there is an internal tug-of-war between aggressive T-cells that want to cause the disease and weaker T cells that want to stop it from occurring," says Dr. Santamaria, who is a JDRF Scholar, an award to academic scientists taking innovative and creative approaches to better treat and cure Type 1 diabetes and its complications.

Dr. Santamaria noted that the study had implications for other autoimmune diseases beyond Type 1 diabetes. "If the paradigm on which this nanovaccine is based holds true in other chronic autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and others, nanovaccines might find general applicability in autoimmunity," says Dr. Santamaria, a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and a member of the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.

The nanoparticle vaccine technology developed by Dr. Santamaria used in the study is licensed by Parvus Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of the nanotechnology-based therapeutic platform. Parvus Therapeutics Inc. was spun out from UTI Limited Partnership, the technology transfer and commercialization center for the University of Calgary.

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