Existing drug also good in type 1 diabetes

Dec. 8, 2009 at 1:29 PM

DALLAS, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- U.S medical investigators say they've determined a drug used to treat autoimmune disorders might also aid patients recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said they found injections of the drug rituximab (Rituxan, MabThera) help slow the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas of those newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, suggesting a potential treatment option that might improve management and reduce long-term complications of the disease.

Dr. Philip Raskin, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, called the findings "extremely exciting."

"Our findings in no way suggest that rituximab should be used as a treatment or that it will eliminate the need for daily insulin injections," Raskin said. "This is not a cure for type 1 diabetes. The results do, however, provide evidence that B cells play a significant role in type 1 diabetes and that selective suppression of these B cells may deter the destruction of the body's beta cells."

Raskin is a co-author of the study that's reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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