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Pediatr Diabetes. 2008 Jun;9(3 Pt 2):4-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5448.2008.00401.x.

Toward a cure for type 1 diabetes mellitus: diabetes-suppressive dendritic cells and beyond.

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Division of Immunogenetics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Insulin has been the gold standard therapy for diabetes since its discovery and commercial availability. It remains the only pharmacologic therapy for type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease in which autoreactive T cells specifically kill the insulin-producing beta cells. Nevertheless, not even molecularly produced insulin administered four or five times per day can provide a physiologic regulation able to prevent the complications that account for the morbidity and mortality of diabetic patients. Also, insulin does not eliminate the T1D hallmark: beta-cell-specific autoimmunity. In other words, insulin is not a 'cure'. A successful cure must meet the following criteria: (i) it must either replace or maintain the functional integrity of the natural, insulin-producing tissue, the endocrine islets of Langerhans' and, more specifically, the insulin-producing beta cells; (ii) it must, at least, control the autoimmunity or eliminate it altogether; and (iii) it must be easy to apply to a large number of patients. Criterion 1 has been partially realized by allogeneic islet transplantation. Criterion 2 has been partially realized using monoclonal antibodies specific for T-cell surface proteins. Criterion 3 has yet to be realized, given that most of the novel therapies are currently quasi-patient-specific. Herein, we outline the current status of non-insulin-based therapies for T1D, with a focus on cell-based immunomodulation which we propose can achieve all three criteria illustrated above.

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