The growth factor prolactin, when combined with an immunotherapy, could be an effective treatment for type 1 diabetes (T1D), according to a study recently published in Endocrinology.
Researchers led by Carol Huang, MD, PhD, of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, write that immunotherapy can restore self-tolerance thereby halting continued immune-mediated β-cell loss, but that residual β-cell mass and function is often insufficient for normoglycemia. They hypothesized that combining a growth factor with immunotherapy can clear this hurdle, particularly prolactin (PRL), since previous studies have shown that PRL “can stimulate β-cell proliferation and up-regulate insulin synthesis and secretion while reducing lymphocytic infiltration of islets, suggesting that it may restore normoglycemia through complementary mechanisms.”
The team treated diabetic, non-obese (NOD) mice with a five-day course anticluster of differentiation 3 monoclonal antibody (aCD3), an immune modulator. They added a three-week course treatment of PRL to the treatment of some mice, and found that the mice treated with this combination achieved diabetes reversal in higher proportion compared to the mice treated with aCD3 alone. “The aCD3 and PRL combined group had a higher β-cell proliferation rate, an increased β-cell fraction, larger islets, higher pancreatic insulin content, and greater glucose-stimulated insulin release,” the authors write.
The researchers conclude that while they did not see a significant difference in the number or proliferative capacity of T cells, they did see a higher proportion of insulitis-free islets in the aCD3 and PRL group. “These results suggest that combining a growth factor with an immunotherapy may be an effective treatment paradigm for autoimmune diabetes,” they write.