A Potential Type-1 Diabetes Vaccine from Finland

New enterovirus vaccine could become new relief to diabetic patients, currently funding for human trials

By Timothy Alberdingk Thijm, Staff Writer


  • This type of vaccination will protect against “its close relatives, to give the best possible effect.”
  • The vaccination is now about to trial on human, and it requires great amounts of funding.
  • This new form of treatment will shed light to relief the suffers of diabetic patients.

In January 2011, Olli Simell, a professor of pediatrics at the Turku University Hospital, told YLE that the DIPP (Diabetes Prediction and Prevention Project), had found that pancreatic damage was hailing the onset of diabetes in test subjects before the disease arrived. This had led Simell to believe that inoculation may be possible by replacing abnormal fats or removing them.

Finland, which has the highest rate of diabetes per capita, is soon to start clinical trials, after a team at Tampere University identified an enterovirus which entered the pancreas and destroyed insulin-producing cells. Enteroviruses like poliovirus, the cause of polio, and Enterovirus 71, which is associated with HFMD (hand, foot and mouth disease), already have vaccines which doctors recommend. The idea that diabetes is linked to an enterovirus first arose in the 1980s; since then it has gained traction as one of the stronger explanatory theories on how the disease occurs.

The researchers have identified the “one virus type that carries the biggest risk,” according to Professor Heikki Hyöty. Höyty, who believes that, given the closeness of the other types, vaccinating this virus type will also protect against “its close relatives, to give the best possible effect.” Hyöty is a prolific writer on diabetes; given the titles of many of his works relating to Coxsackievirus B1, this is presumably the link he believes exists to Type-1 diabetes which can be used to develop a vaccine.

Clinical trials will not just be conducted on lab mice. The clinical trials on mice have already gone well and shown that the vaccine produced works effectively, at least for mice. It is now time to move on to human testing. Professor Hyöty notes that, right now, the biggest obstacle in the way of commencing such tests is money. YLE remarks that a clinical trial “would cost some 700 million euros.” While funding has begun in the United States and in Europe, there is a long way to go. Hyöty told the Finnish Diabetes Association (Diabetesliitto) that even with funding it could take several years to develop the vaccine.

Hyöty still remains hopeful: “The matter is of international interest, and people are interested in us. I’m optimistic that the funding will come.” The study may not have reached human trials yet, have enough funding, or even be available for years to come; yet many people affected by diabetes around the globe can breathe a sigh of relief that new help is on its way.

Tim Alberdingk Thijm is a staff writer at Arbitrage Magazine. He studies English and Drama at the University of Toronto.

Photo courtesy of Research Study in University of Tampere & Yle Uutiset 

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