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Immune interventions to preserve β cell function in type 1 diabetes
  1. Mario R Ehlers
  1. Clinical Trials Group, Immune Tolerance Network, San Francisco, CA, USA
  1. Correspondence to Mario R Ehlers, Clinical Trials Group, Immune Tolerance Network, 185 Berry St, Suite 3515, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA; mehlers{at}


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a chronic autoimmune disease that leads to destruction of pancreatic β cells, lifelong dependence on insulin, and increased morbidity and mortality from diabetes-related complications. Preservation of residual β cells at diagnosis is a major goal because higher levels of endogenous insulin secretion are associated with better short- and long-term outcomes. For the past 3 decades, a variety of immune interventions have been evaluated in the setting of new-onset T1D, including nonspecific immunosuppression, pathway-specific immune modulation, antigen-specific therapies, and cellular therapies. To date, no single intervention has produced durable remission off therapy in most treated patients, but the field has gained valuable insights into disease mechanisms and potential immunologic correlates of success. In particular, T-cell–directed therapies, including therapies that lead to partial depletion or modulation of effector T cells and preservation or augmentation of regulatory T cells, have shown the most success and will likely form the backbone of future approaches. The next phase will see evaluation of rational combinations, comprising one or more of the following: an effector T-depleting or -modulating drug, a cytokine-based tolerogenic (regulatory T-cells–promoting) agent, and an antigen-specific component. The long term goal is to reestablish immunologic tolerance to β cells, thereby preserving residual β cells early after diagnosis or enabling restoration of β-cell mass from autologous stem cells or induced neogenesis in patients with established T1D.

  • islet cell antigens
  • effector memory T cells
  • Tregs
  • costimulation blockade
  • inflammatory cytokines

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