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.