Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease for which no causal cure exists to date. The only treatment method available consists of closely monitoring blood sugar levels and injecting insulin several times a day. This treatment, however, does not eliminate the cause of the disease, has to be kept up for the patient’s whole life, and comes with frequent complications, as blood sugar levels can reach critical levels when insulin injections are not optimally adjusted.
A multidisciplinary international team of investigators from the University of Côte d’Azur, the Case Western University as well as from Galvani Bioelectronics has now developed an alternative treatment approach that could tackle the disease at its roots. The idea is to suppress the autoimmune process early on in the disease to save insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and stop the disease from progressing.
Instead of trying to develop a new drug to systemically inhibit the immune response, the authors applied the novel principle of bioelectronic medicine to induce pinpointed immunosuppression in the pancreas by electrically stimulating the specific nerve that controls the immune response there. This was no small feat at all. In a meticulous procedure, the responsible nerve was first identified in pre-clinical studies. In a second step . Then, they had to find a way had to be found to electrically target this nerve, which in the animal model for the disease is only 50 micrometers thick and thus thinner than a human hair. AirRay Cuff Electrodes from CorTec proved instrumental in finding a way to chronically stimulate this tiny nerve in living and mobile mice.
With this experimental setup in place, the authors were able to show that chronic electrostimulation at the identified nerve can reduce the immune response, reduce glycemia and even slow down disease progression, with minimal side effects.
This offers are cause for hope for patients with, type 1 diabetes and could form the basis for a first causal treatment of the disease, avoiding or delaying treatment with insulin and reducing the corresponding side-effects and risks.
Mélanie Guyot, Thomas Simon, Franck Ceppo, Clara Panzolini, Alice Guyon, Julien Lavergne, Emilie Murris, Douglas Daoudlarian, Romain Brusini, Hadi Zarif, Sophie Abélanet, Sandrine Hugues-Ascery, Jean-Louis Divoux, Stephen J. Lewis, Arun Sridhar, Nicolas Glaichenhaus and Philippe Blancou: Pancreatic nerve electrostimulation inhibits recent-onset autoimmune diabetes.
Nat Biotechnol. 2019 Dec;37(12):1446-1451. doi: 10.1038/s41587-019-0295-8