Wales 1st country to test new Type 1 diabetes drug

People in Wales have become the first in the world to test a drug which could prevent and treat Type 1 diabetes.

WalesOnline reports the unnamed drug, which is being used as part of an early phase clinical trial, has been shown to “regenerate” insulin making cells of the pancreas which are lost in people with diabetes. If it proves successful, people with Type 1 diabetes could become far less dependent on insulin injections.

The Clinical Research Facility (CRF) at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff has already given two people doses of the new investigational drug and will soon analyse the results. So far the drug appears to have had no major side effects, but it is too early to say if it has been effective.

Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali, who is the sub investigator working on the study, said the treatment will offer “new hope.” He said “Insulin injections are a big burden on anyone who has type 1 diabetes. This new therapy could reduce the amount of insulin type 1 diabetes patients need to take and offer them better glycemic control.”

He said, despite everything achieved in diabetes care, advances in prevention haven’t really occurred. He said “More insulin-producing beta cells are needed for those with this form of diabetes, and it is estimated that 90% of patients with type 1 diabetes have less than 5% of insulin-making cells left. We are very proud that this study is being run in Wales and that the first patients in the world are being treated here in Cardiff. It is a very big achievement.”

Type 1 diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where blood glucose levels are too high because the body cannot make a hormone called insulin. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, the autoimmune disease is not linked to older age or being overweight. But both types of diabetes can lead to lifelong conditions and complications such as heart disease and stroke, foot and circulation problems, sight problems and kidney issues.

A spokeswoman for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said people who have taken part in the trial so far have spoken very highly of the treatment and the overall experience they have received.

The first person to receive the dose, who has not been identified, said “I’m really grateful that I was given the opportunity to take part in this study. I hope that my participation will help with the management of type 1 diabetes for future generations.”

Denise Davies, from Sully in the Vale of Glamorgan, was the second person to take part in the trial. The fifty six year old was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2009 after experiencing weight loss, vision problems and unquenchable thirst. She said she initially found it very difficult to keep her condition under control using insulin injections.

She said “It’s just so intense. You cannot take a break from it. It just dominates every part of every day, such as driving a car, going for a walk or walking the dog. Everything requires meticulous planning.”

For the past four years she has used an insulin pump which is permanently attached to her,. She said she is “very excited” about taking part in the trial. She said “If I can help in some way to push this forward by taking part then it will not only help myself, but others in the same position as me.”

Beth Baldwin, whose teenage son Peter died from undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes in 2015, said she was encouraged by the new research. She said “We are always hoping for a breakthrough; that this is the one that either is a cure or opens up areas to investigate. The fact that it’s happening in Cardiff is testament to to the rising profile of type 1 diabetes awareness and research here.”

The Clinical Research Facility team are hoping to attract up to eight adult volunteers who have had diabetes for more than two years to take part in the clinical trial. Professor Colin Dayan, who is leading the team, said “The CRF team have made it possible to closely monitor the patients for 72 hours after their dose and I am proud of the team for their commitment in making sure this clinical trial happens as smoothly as possible.”

Carys Thomas, interim director of Health and Care Research Wales, said “Developing new treatment options for patients living with diabetes is a top priority for Health and Care Research Wales. It is essential that the NHS works closely with the pharmaceutical industry on research like this to develop drugs that could make a big difference to people’s lives. The Clinical Research Facility in Cardiff is not only leading the way in this groundbreaking study but the team’s hard work also shows that Wales is competing successfully on an international level to attract global pharmaceutical companies and commercial investment. It will also pave the way to bring more high quality research into Wales which could help treat other conditions.”

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