The study was funded by Bayhill Therapeutics, which helped to develop the vaccine. The JDRF provided funding for the trial, as did the Iacocca Family Foundation.
Steinman said it's too soon to know how the vaccine might work in the real world. It's not clear how often someone would need to be given the vaccine, and how well the body might recover its ability to produce insulin once the autoimmune attack has stopped. It's also not clear if the vaccine might be more effective in people who've recently developed the disease, or in people who have a high risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Steinman said he hopes to have the next trial under way in a year or so.
The study appeared online June 26 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, expressed more caution about the vaccine. "The immune response in type 1 diabetes is very complex, and we've been burned many times with the idea of a vaccine for type 1 diabetes," he noted.
"Because this is a new technology -- a DNA-based vaccine -- I think it would have to be approved for use in something like advanced cancer first, because it may do good things and bad things.," Zonszein said. "We don't know, so we don't want to give it to otherwise healthy people with type 1 diabetes until we know what the potential for harm is."
Still, he said that the new vaccine is an exciting discovery. "This is a welcome discovery. It helps us to understand the immune process better," he said.
Learn more about type 1 diabetes from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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