Prevention of type 1 diabetes: IBBL plays a key role in an international clinical trial

IBBL (Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg) will play a key role in an international clinical trial coordinated by the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) of Helmholtz Zentrum München to investigate whether the oral administration of insulin at an early age can prevent type 1 diabetes.

For this prestigious task, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will be providing IBBL with the equivalent of more than €400,000 in funding. “We are proud that we can support this important scientific project with our long-standing expertise in the long-term storage of biological samples,” says IBBL CEO Dr. Catherine Larue. “IBBL is perfectly prepared for this crucial task, with its experience and ultra-modern infrastructure and equipment.”

Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common metabolic disorders of childhood and adolescence. In this disorder, which is a so-called autoimmune disease, the body’s own defences attack and destroy the insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) in the pancreas. Individuals who have type 1 diabetes must take insulin for the rest of their lives after disease onset in order to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels.

As a randomised, placebo-controlled study, the Primary Oral Insulin Trial (POInT) is being launched to determine whether giving insulin to infants can prevent type 1 diabetes. The premise behind the trial is that, if the immune system of infants is accustomed to tolerating insulin from a very early age, then at a later age it will not mistake this important natural messenger as foreign and attack it. This study is focused on infants with an elevated genetic risk of type 1 diabetes.

For the trial, some 300,000 infants across Europe will be tested for their risk of type 1 diabetes. Starting from the age of four to seven months, half of the participants who are at high risk for the disease will be given oral insulin daily in the form of a powder, and half will be given an inactive substance (which is important in order to assess the efficacy of the treatment). The children will then continue to receive this daily treatment until their third birthday.

IBBL’s main role in this trial is to store the precious biological samples at ultra low temperatures within its state-of-the-art facilities, ensuring they remain in perfect condition for subsequent scientific analyses. Additionally, the samples will later be made available to other scientists around the world who are researching the causes of autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes. IBBL will also provide the materials required for sample-taking to the centres participating in POInT, all coordinated by the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) of Helmholtz Zentrum München. “We are honoured that IBBL, with its experience and expertise, will be able to help the research institutions involved in answering these important scientific questions,” Catherine Larue says.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust, an American organization, is funding POInT as part of the Global Platform for the Prevention of Autoimmune Diabetes (GPPAD), to which they have committed the equivalent of more than €44 million in total.