A potentially life-changing development for those who suffer from type 1 diabetes, the more serious form of the disease: A vaccine used for decades to treat tuberculosis might not only reduce the need for daily insulin shots but actually reverse the disease itself, reports Bloomberg. Type 1 diabetics need daily injections because their own immune system goes haywire and kills pancreatic cells that produce insulin. The TB vaccine, it turns out, kills those insulin-attacking cells, according to a small-scale study.
“These patients have been told their pancreases were dead,” says the chief of Mass General's immunobiology lab. “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.” The first study of the BCG vaccine involved only three patients, but researchers are planning a bigger one that could take up to five years. An estimated 3 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, though the Wall Street Journal reports that more and more patients with type 1 are being misdiagnosed with the more common type 2. (Read more diabetes stories.)