An arthritis drug could help Type 1 diabetes sufferers live longer

Researchers hope that the drug could be available to people with Type 1 diabetes within a few years (Photo: Shutterstock)
Researchers hope that the drug could be available to people with Type 1 diabetes within a few years (Photo: Shutterstock)

Thousands of people with Type 1 diabetes could see their lives extended by a drug usually used to treat arthritis sufferers.

Researchers hope that the drug, known as Abatacept, could be made available as a Type 1 diabetes treatment, after a two year long clinical trial of the drug saw progression of the disease halted. The scientists behind the trial are hoping that progression of Type 1 diabetes could be slowed for even longer than two years, though they say more research will be needed to determine this.

What is Type 1 diabetes - and how does the drug help it?

Type 1 diabetes sees sufferers gradually lose insulin - a process which can lead to kidney problems, heart disease and other health complications that can shorten the average patient's lifespan. Abatacept works by preserving the pancreas's ability to produce insulin, thus slowing the progress of the disease.

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    Professor Lucy Walker, of University College London told inews, “We’ve found something new and if it holds up with further tests it’s a new paradigm that could potentially be really important

    “It’s quite a big deal if you can suppress the disease because that not only slows down progression – it also reduces the risk of complications."

    More research needed

    Professor Walker did add, however, that more research is needed to confirm the efficacy of the treatment.

    In the trial, it was discovered that Abatacept was highly effective in a third of patients with Type 1 diabetes, with little effect on the remaining two-thirds. It's not yet clear why exactly this is the case.

    Researchers are now planning further trials of the drug and are in discussions with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca about a larger clinical trial.

    Currently, the UK has one of the highest rates of Type 1 diabetes globally, with around 400,000 patients. 29,000 of these are children, and cases are on the rise.

    Trials were conducted on newly-diagnosed patients, though researchers hope that patients in all stages of the disease will benefit from the drug. The research is published in the journal, Nature Immunology.