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Diabetes Res. 1985 Nov;2(6):271-6.

Anti-thymocyte globulin and prednisone immunotherapy of recent onset type 1 diabetes mellitus.


Increasing evidence that Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease, together with successful cure/prevention in animal models of this disease (e.g. BB/W rat) has led to several trials of immunotherapy in recent onset Type 1 diabetes of man. In this communication we report our experience with short courses of prednisone and antithymocyte globulin (ATGAM) plus prednisone. Prednisone characteristically suppressed Ia positive T lymphocytes into the normal range, but had no long-lasting effect on T-cell phenotype. ATGAM plus prednisone markedly decreased the ratio of T4/T8 ("helper"/"suppressor-cytotoxic") positive T lymphocytes, and this remained suppressed for months. ATGAM treated patients had lower HbA1c on a lower dose of insulin 100 or more days following immune therapy (with 4 out of 5 patients requiring less than 0.2 U/Kg insulin/day). Two patients in the ATGAM treated group did not require insulin for more than 8 months; during remission they had normal fasting blood glucose values, but with abnormal glucose tolerance on oral glucose tolerance testing. Severe, though transient, thrombocytopenia was observed in 2 patients on ATGAM therapy which outweighed its clinical effects.

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