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Monday, May 27
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

IU studies find breakthrough diabetes link

A psoriasis drug taken off the market in 2011 has been found to decrease negative effects of Type 1 diabetes.

Researchers at IU School of Medicine recently published a report on the interaction between the drug and the disease, and patients are all expected to have completed the study by next spring.

Results would be published in summer 2014.

The drug, which has the market name Alefacept, works against the disease because psoriasis and Type 1 diabetes have similar origins, said Mark Rigby, lead researcher of the study.

“Although psoriasis and Type 1 diabetes clinically are totally different — a skin disease versus an endocrine disease — the cause of both of these diseases appear strikingly similar,” Rigby said.

He said it’s all about immune cells called “T cells.” It works like this: psoriasis patients’ skin cells are attacked by T cells. In people with diabetes, these T cells attack the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

Alefacept attacks those damaging T cells, allowing the pancreas to increase insulin production.Rigby said Alefacept was removed from the market because it sometimes took weeks or months to kick in and optimally work.

If its effects on insulin production are strong and long-lasting enough, it could mean a breakthrough for diabetes patients. But more testing is required.

“If we continue to see a preservation of insulin production and we want to study further, we will need to evaluate how long this effect lasts and the potential of re-dosing,” he said.

Rigby said testing could continue for as long as five years before enough data is gathered to get approval for regular use in patients.

Rigby said it would be a medical revolution.

“If this drug does have a significant and prolonged effect, this would be an extremely novel finding,” Rigby said. “Of course, more investigation would be needed, but this would definitely be a new and promising finding.”

— Ashley Jenkins

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