CU Researchers Find Cure For Type 1 Diabetes In Mice

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Researchers at the University of Colorado have found a cure for Type 1 Diabetes– in mice.

The research team will determine if it could prevent the disease in humans as well.

“I love T-cells and I want to know what they can do and everything I can know about them,” said Dr. David Wagner, CU Associate Professor of Medicine.

Wagner isolated the specific T-cells that attack the pancreas and cause most cases of Type 1 Diabetes. The research team has developed a drug that attacks those bad cells.

“I think it could have huge implications,” said Wagner. “Right now we’re calling it cd40 inhibitory peptide. That will not be the name.”

It’s having an impressive effect on mice. The drug is not only preventing mice from developing diabetes, it’s also reversing the effects of diabetes in mice that already have the disease.

“That lasts for as long as we administer the drug,” said Wagner.

The next step is FDA approval and then human trials.

Wagner also said he’s developed a blood test that could predict who will develop Type 1 Diabetes.

“When we detect somebody who is very much at high risk we can treat you so you never have to go through this process. It’s a nasty disease,” said Wagner.

That could mean a life without finger pricks and insulin injections for generations of children. The discovery made in the lab may impact something even bigger.

“It turns out these cells are involved in multiple sclerosis as well as diabetes so what I want to know is what are they doing there and can I fix them in that disease as well as diabetes?” said Wagner.

If all goes according to plan, the drug could reach the market in the next five to 10 years. Wagner said he’s not sure if the treatment offers hope for adults with Type 2 Diabetes.

RELATED VIDEO: Ben Vereen talks about living with diabetes

CBS4 is proud to sponsor the Diabetes EXPO at the Colorado Convention Center on Saturday, March 10. Entertainment legend Ben Vereen will be there to talk about living with diabetes. The expo runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

LINK: Diabetes EXPO

  • Sue

    Is this the BCG that Dr. Faustman from Harvard is already trying?

    • shaun jones

      seems to be. you don’t see cbs sponsoring dr. faustman’s research though. she is using a generic drug and that means that people aren’t going to be making a disgusting amount of money off of it. it’s sickening

  • denver gail

    Children with T1 grow up to be adults with T1. Please correct your article – I have lived (successfully and without complications) with T1 for 40 YEARS. I’m no longer and child, but I still have T1.

    • Michelle

      Yes, I am also an Adult T1 for 33 years so do correct your article!

    • A

      I think what the article means is that with this drug they could prevent T1D in people who don’t already have it, most likely children. It doesn’t say that adults don’t have T1D.

  • JEM

    How does this treatment reverse type 1, since all it does is turn off the attack on the insulin making (islet) cells? In type 1, the islet cells are destroyed, so someone would then have to get some sort of transplant in order to once again produce their own insulin. I don’t see any true cure in the time frame specified in this article. I’ve had this disease for 28 years and am doing quite well with my current therapy method.

    • T Demb

      Dr. faustman ( has already proven the islet cells can regenerate themselves in some humans with t1 once the t-cells are in check. Check out her website. She has been doing this same research for years and will begin phase 2 trials hopefully soon. Check out the website.

  • david wagner

    I want to add a couple ot things. This treatment is NOT the same as Denise Faustman’s drug (she is at Tufts not Harvard by the way). BCG was tested at the Barbara Davis Childhood Diabetes Center in the late 80s. It did not work and Dr. Faustman should have been aware of that.
    It is correct that the drug may not reverse type 1 in long term patients. In new onset a reversal may still be possible. The reason is that when people onset with T1D about 50% of islets are still unaffected. It is possible that the inflammation is preventing insulin release and if that can be reversed further onset may be prevented and a return to normal insulin release can occur.. Once the islets are destroyed, it is true that they may not recover. However there are studies at the University of Missouri that if the pancreatic inflammation can be stopped, the islets CAN regenerate. I told the producers that we were not claiming a “Cure”, but a serious treatment that could prevent further damage that occurs during the disease.

    • Kill T1 Permanently

      Mr Wagner, you are correct..the treatment described above is NOT Dr Faustmans path. Hers is using BCG, and she already HAS REVERSED PERMANENTLY T1 Diabetes in Mice in 2001…using BCG. The ONLY difference I can see in your treatment vs Faustmans is the T1 will be bound to endless treatments with your newly developed (and no doubt expensive) drug. BCG is PROVEN TO WORK. It’s been in existance for over 80 years, its inexpensive. Phase 1 HUMAN TRIALS have already concluded with POSITIVE results. PHASE 2 will begin soon.

      • T1 Diabetic for 53 Years

        I believe that Dr Faustman’s initial success with mice was with a more toxic chemical. Not BCG. She is currently testing BCG (similar to what she initially used) apparently with hopes that different dosing than the Barbara Davis study may be effective. Possibly permanently, possibly on a continuing dose basis. She and one of her collegues (David Nathan) have developed equipment to measure the “bad” T cells. ( A monumental success in and by itself). Let us hope that both Dr Wagner and Dr Faustrman will be successful. I will be following his progress with the same hope and interest that I follow Dr Faustman’s. (Full disclosure… I am a financial supporter of Dr Faustman’s work)

    • Cathy

      Hello David – thanks David for the additional information. I have lived with type 1 diabetes since 1979 and have been treated at the BDC since its inception and had my blood drawn many times for T cell and other research studies. It is exciting to see that this research is yielding these incredible results. I really hope that it can eventually prevent type 1 onset.

    • Michelle

      Awesome! I work at Childrens and am an adult living with type 1 so will follow your research closely!

  • Sue

    Thank you, David, for the clarification. I know the basics about Type 1 because my daughter and older sister have it. Please explain to me how Dr. Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital has raised $9 million toward Phase II Clinical Trials if BCG was proven not to work in the late 80s.

    Thank you for your hard work–I know first-hand how hard researchers work!

  • david wagner

    Thank you Sue..,,Your post means a lot to me….Most of Denise Faustmans’s money is from the Iacocca foundation, which is a great ogranization. She doesnt get money from NIH, ADA or JDRF. I am astounded that she gets that kind of money for BCG. BCG was given to every child in Europe between late 60s and early 80s as a vaccine for tuberculosis (BCG is a version of TB that is non infectious to humans, but acts as a vaccine). Researchers at Barbara Davis found that BCG prevented T1D in mice (full disclosure, that is all that i have found so far, that my drug works in mice) but did not work in humans. My discovery DOES have an effect on human T cells..THIS WAS DONE ON CELLS TAKEN FROM BLOOD>>>NOT DONE IN HUMANS!!!! We dont know yet if this drug will work in people. The data in mice is very encouraging BUT the reason i am more encouraged is that we found that the cells that this drug impacts in mice ocurr at similar levels in human subjects. I believe this is the first time that was discovered. My hope is that we can prevent onset in high risk individuals, perhaps reverse in new onset, and prevent complications in established disease. As you know first hand this is one nasty disease…but i do believe that it can be mahaged much better. That is what i am working for. All my best to you, your daughter and your sister.

    • hopeful_mom

      About Faustmans’ work — your example of BCG being given as a routine vaccination for TB not preventing diabetes shows that you must not be aware of the mechanism that is the foundation of Faustman’s work. The only role of BCG is to cause the body to release TNF (tumor necrotic factor), which our bodies do in response to systemic infection. The BCG has no role other than that and there are countless other ways to induce TNF release, but BCG is generic and has a good safety record. The autoreactive T cells that cause type 1 have a defect in the TNF pathway that makes them unable to withstand TNF exposure. Faustman’s work exploits this defect, since healthy T cells are not affected. Here’s a paper that describes the pathway:

      There’s an entire body of work in mice and in humans showing that Faustman’s work has promise. Besides complete remission in mice (collaborated by other researchers) with established diabetes, other important work of Faustman’s show that TNF kills the autoreactive T cells in human blood. She actually measures those cells and has the baseline levels for about 7 years in human type 1s and controls with no history of automimmune disease. She has a robotic blood sorting machine so they can actually track T cells in clinical trials. If I were a diabetes researcher, I’d be trying to get a hold of that equipment so I could see a direct effect from any drug trials.

      Recently, the results of BCG Phase I clinical trials in humans were released at the ADA meeting. They showed that humans with two small doses of BCG had transient amounts of C-peptide released, meaning that they were making their own insulin. These are patients who had type 1 for an average of 15 years.

      I am a mom of a type 1 kid. I used to be a researcher. I knew everything that people in similar research were doing, so I find it alarming that so many diabetes researchers make these statements against Dr. Faustman’s work without seeming to even understand the basic science about it. I want a cure or at least a therapy for my child as desperately as any other parent and I hope so much that one of you comes up with something that actually works. I can’t understand enough about what you’re doing from this article to even have a clue what it really means. Have you published anything or is there a more detailed report anywhere?

    • Kill T1 Permanently

      Dr Faustman does not get money from NIH, ADA, or JDRF….why? Because ALL of those organizations research gets FUNDED by Big Pharma to TREAT the disease, NOT CURE IT. This is a well known fact

      • T1 Diabetic for 53 Years

        You are on point and precisely correct. In a capitaliistic system, no business can seek to remove their own sales. If one cures everyone of T1 diabetes, especially with a generic such BCG, there is ZERO incentive to fund that research. But, can you name ANY major disease that has been cured since polio? Any at all? If (really big if) we can destroy the “bad” t cells either through Dr Wagner’s treatment or Dr. Faustman’s we MAY cure another. Big gamble. Big payoff. Not just in human terms but economic terms.

    • Kill T1 Permanently

      Dr Faustmans search to CURE T1 Diabetes is NOT funded by NIH, ADA, or JDRF…why? Well if you look at how T1 grants are awarded, you will find all of them are awarded to scientists that continue finding better ways to TREAT the disease, no funding goes to anyone trying to CURE it….

    • julia

      As the mother of a 12 year old T1, I ask, when will you be able to start testing in humans?I know FDA can be a long time out, but i”m still excited to see if this will help my daughter who was diagnosed 3 years ago, and has gone into DKA twice.

  • Kira

    I thought T1D could be traced to a specific placement in one leg off of the 2nd or 3rd chromisome.???? I’ve also read though that it’s considered to be an “Autoimmune disease” So… now I’m being told that it could be cuased by a hormone glucaon and now T-cells? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to scruitinize but I’ve been told and read a lot of different things from a lot of different professionals on the matter, and honestly? It’s getting old being told it’s this- no its that, and on and on

    Just so my head stops spinning in circles and my hopes don’t get too high…. you’re saying that people already with the disease for lets say…. 22 + years, this new treatment you’re working on won’t work as a reversal? If that’s the case is my only sure bet of getting rid of T1D would be Stem cell? from what i can grasp at, this is not a reversal for people who have had the disease for a prolonged period of time, but what would be the mesurement of time we’re using here? are we talking 10 years is considered prolonged at this point? or is it 20 or 30 years?

    P.S. – will you guys EVER be able to work on Stem Cell again? Or was that hope crushed completely?

    • 240robert

      When my son was diagnosed last year, we spoke to Dr. Hirsch at UofW. I specifically asked him if we could harvest some remaining islet cells for cyrogenic preservation for potential future use. He advised that would not be a practical course. I then asked if once the pancreas supposedly produces no more/not enough insulin, if the insulin cells can regenerate. He paused, then said years ago that was the conception, today, many believe insulin producing cells, whether within the pancreas or liver, still are capable of producing insulin if the autoimune response can be arrested. Another researcher working on prolonging the honeymoon period for newly diagnosed cases told me they had seen native insulin production in postmortem examination of patients having had diabetes for 70+years. Having grown up with the dictates of brain and liver cells being incapable of regeneration and now having that idea challenged, I too hope and believe that many type 1 individuals will be capable of producing some level of native insulin if the reactive inflamation autoimune response can be inhibited. Here’s to hope and grace in the near future.

    • Kill T1 Permanently

      Kira, goto the link above, read the history and the FACTS. BCG has shown POSITIVE effects in T1’s who have had it for over 30 years. There is alot of new information that is very encouraging to long term T1’s…I have been T1 for 34 years, The Faustman lab will get it done, with the support of T1 diabetics and their families.

    • A. White

      T-cells are part of the immune system

  • david wagner

    HI Kira…good questions and confusion is completely understandable. T1D is an autoimmne disease, and there are genetic factors. What happens is T cells, through some genetics, decide to attack the islets of the pancreas (whcih produce insuline). This is the autoimmune (self attack is what it means) component. Stem cells have not been abandoned. Stem cells could be programmed to become islets and replace those were damaged. The problem is that the T cells that caused the disease in the first place will still be there. they will need to be controlled. It is my belief that a multiple approach, drug and even alternative therapies will be necessary. My drug will be one part of that. We show that we are able to control the T cells that are attacking. Does this mean that ifyou have the disease for 22 years there is no help? NO!! This drug is one piece that i hope will be a major advance of the treatments. Again please rest assured that work IS ocurring on stem cells, many labs including an entire stem cell center at CU is working on this. Stem cells alone will not be the answer as I stated above, but may become an important part of the equation that equals CURE. We need more work. Please know that many people are working very hard. Even if not a cure yet, we can soon make a major impact on this disease for everyone who suffers from it.

  • Sue

    David, thank you for your response! As I stated before, my daughter and sister have Type 1. My sister has had it for 60 years and my daughter for 13 years. The way that I understand Dr. Faustman’s Phase II Trials in Boston–I am a layman so I could be wrong–is that BCG is given in higher doses than in the past. Phase 1 proved that the higher doses were safe.

    Thank you again for your hard work!

    • david wagner

      Hi again Sue. As far as I know the doses are safe. It might be that a higher dose will be more effective. I dont think anyone knows the mechanism of BCG, maybe Denise has found it. I havent seen publicaitons from her in a while, I will do some more background work. i HOPE it is more successful. As I am trying to say, i think a real cure will require several approaches…however I might be wrong.
      Thanks again for your well wishes….i promise you we will keep working till we can defeat this disease.

      • lisa muller

        i dont know u david but i like u more and more after reading ur comments and ur store…i have twins with t1d dx 12 days apart…in my house we need a cure 7 years ago~ty and i hope this comes true for all of us families going though this ! ty ty david

  • Bonnie

    Wow! Thank you so much for your work. You give me hope! If you keep an interested T1 email list, please add me to it! If you could use RN support in your work, I’d like to know that as well. Thank you!

  • Brett

    How would you go about signing up or at least applying to try and be part of the human trials?? Thanks

  • David

    Hi Brett,
    You should check with the Barbara Davis Childhood Diabetes Center here in Denver. It is one of the best in the world. There is a study called TrialNet. They often have human trials set up. Im not sure what they have coming along, but check with them.

  • Christy

    Dr. Wagner,
    Thank you for all your hard work! My Dad has had T1 for close to 40 years. His management has come a long way, but I don’t think anything will ever truly replace a working pancreas. Thank you again.

  • Danielle

    Dr. Wagner,

    Words can’t begin to express the excitement and gratitiude my family felt when we saw this story. My daughter was diagnosed with T1 when she was 2 1/2 yrs. old. She is now 6 yrs old and on the pump. As great as the pump is, with today’s technology it is not good enough. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your efforts to bring forth a cure. I understand this study is a piece of the puzzle, but I believe it is a step in the right direction. It is because of people like you that my little girl has the hope of a brighter future. So THANK YOU and please keep up the good work!

  • Shelly

    Congratulations & thank you!! I, & my family, really appreciate your work! I felt the News report was fairly accurate AND generated excitement. I’ve had T1D for 48 years, but am not ruling out future success due to your research-I’m on a very low dose of insulin so who knows, maybe some Islet cells are still working?? I have multiple auto-immune diseases including LHON Plus which is often mistaken for MS. Intriguing?? I’m a huge fan of University of Colorado & the Barbara Davis Center. Please pass on to Danielle-I got diabetes at age 4, graduated from college, & had 2 great kids & that was way back when-ha,ha. It’s a brutal disease, but she’ll do great things!

  • Dean Phillips

    I have seen studies that show if the attack on the pancreas is stopped then the pancreas (islet cells) will start working again, the body heals itself. They also found that even people with T1 for 50 years still had some, not enough though, islet cells still producing insulin. So it seems to me that this approach is the way to go. Still sucks to have wait 5-10 more years to shake this albatross off of me!!

  • Richard Radcliffe

    Hi David,

    As a fellow researcher at UCAMC (not immunology) and a father of a beautiful young woman with T1D, I applaud your great work. I also applaud you taking the time to respond to the comments on this thread. Your answers are clear, honest, and hopeful. Keep up the great work.

    Richard A. Radcliffe, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

  • Amy Ohmer

    Thank you Dr Wagner.

    We are a family full of auto-immune disease; specifically Multiple Sclerosis AND Type 1 Diabetes. My mother with MS and my only two daughters with T1D. My question is in regards to getting better access to clinical trials for children. With one daughter dx at age 3 and now age 8, she has already lived with T1D for five years. Will she be out of the market so to speak by the time she is 18? My other daughter will fare slightly better with being dx at age 8 and now 10. We want a cure now before they spend an entire childhood dealing with T1D (and growth, puberty, illness, etc.). Are there any plans to include the younger than 18 group in your trials or seek FDA approval for a later phase of trials?

  • Carole Dunning

    Thank you, Dr. Wagner, for devoting your life’s work to finding a cure for this terrible disease. My son, now 9 years old, is coming up on his 2nd Dia-versary on 3/25/12. As a RN and mother of a T1-d, I applaud your work and am forever hopeful in finding the CURE.

  • Christy

    This is great news and yes, thank you so much for clarifying the study results and implications!!!! Our son was diagnosed when he had just turned 3. He’s almost 7 now. It’s such a blessing to our family to know that people are working so hard and diligently to help find better treatments and cures for him and all the others around the world suffering from this disease! I’d be really interested in the test that shows if people would develop it as we have a 4 year old daughter that I’m constantly watching and praying over!!!! May you be blessed for your work!!!!

  • Den

    My son was recently diagnosed with T1D, seeing such heartfelt effort by such intelligent people gives me hope for him and all children like him.

  • David W

    Thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments and encouragement. When things get frustrating, and believe me, they really do…i look at these wonderful words of encouragement and feel encouraged. I know that I have to work harder, but this really helps a lot. I have an amazing team of 4 other people ( you only saw two of them in the piece) that are dedicated to this work. I want to reiterate that we have a way to go…but please be assured that we and lots of other labs in Colorado and elsewhere are working hard to get there.

  • David W

    Amy….i just saw your comment. Right now we are a year maybe couple from human trials. I believe that we can make a strong argument to FDA to be able to include “children” (people less than 18) in the study. Im not sure how easy/difficult this will be. I will try though.

    • Amy Ohmer

      Thank you for the follow-up. Your study is one of hope for all of us. I shared the information on as well as on a few other pages. You already have a strong group of supporters!

  • Myrna Brox

    I’m Myrna and live in the Netherlands.
    As the mother of an adult son with T1D I am gratefull that you are doing your best to rid the world of this terrible desease. Please keep up the good work. I hope that one day my son will be rid of this danger.
    Warm greetings.
    Myrna B

  • Julie Aronson

    Thank you Dr. Wagner for the work you are doing regarding T1. Twenty nine years ago, my daughter was dx with T1. I prayed for a miracle. The request came in the form of Dr. Garg from the Barbara Davis Clinic. With the knoiwledge and care he gave us, my daughter has been able to live with T1 with very few complications. And 3 great grandchildren. My son was dx with T1 25 yrs ago with the same results. Plus another grandchild. It helps to know of your efforts that is happening at the same medical center that helped us prevuiusly and continues to do so.

blog comments powered by Disqus
News Updates & Notifications

Listen Live

AM/FM Stations

Featured Shows & Multimedia