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Tuberculosis vaccine may reverse Type 1 diabetes

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A tuberculosis vaccine may help reverse Type 1 diabetes, a disease for which there is no cure. Harvard University researchers are raising money to conduct human studies using the 90-year-old vaccine bacillus Calmette-Guérin, also known as BCG, to help produce a protein that kills insulin-attacking cells, Bloomberg reports.

Three million Americans suffering from Type I diabetes use insulin injections to control the illness. In the study with the BCG vaccine, researchers administered two doses to three patients with Type 1 diabetes and found signs of increased insulin production after 20 weeks in two of the patients. A rise in C-peptide levels suggested the production of insulin, Bloomberg reported.

"These patients have been told their pancreases were dead," Denise Faustman, director of Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital's immunobiology laboratory, told Bloomberg. "We can take those people, give them a very low dose twice and see their pancreases kick in and start to make small amounts of insulin."

Faustman and her colleagues are now trying to raise the $25 million necessary to conduct larger human trials. In an effort to bring the vaccine to market, she found every major drugmaker expressed no interest in using an inexpensive, generic drug as a cure for diabetes because there was not enough money to be made, according to Bloomberg. All money for the study is coming from private donors.

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