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Keywords:

  • T1D;
  • immunotherapy;
  • autoimmune disease

Summary

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is often considered the prototype organ-specific autoimmune disease in clinical immunology circles. The key disease features − precise destruction of a single endocrine cell type occurring on a distinct genetic and autoimmune background − have been unravelled in recent years to such an extent that there is a growing expectation that the disease should be curable. T1D is something of an orphan disease, currently managed by endocrinologists yet dependent upon the wit of immunologists, both basic and clinical, to find the best approaches to prevention and cure. Type 1 diabetes thus represents one of the most active arenas for translational research, as novel immune-based interventions find their way to the clinic. The first serious attempt at immune-based treatment for T1D was in 1984, the first at prevention in 1993; current and planned trials will take us into the next decade before reporting their results. This paper represents the first attempt at a comprehensive review of this quarter century of endeavour, documenting all the strategies that have emerged into clinical studies. Importantly, the intense clinical activity has established robust infrastructures for future T1D trials and frameworks for their design. The evident success of the monoclonal anti-CD3 antibody trials in established T1D demonstrate that modulation of islet autoimmunity in humans after the onset of overt disease can be achieved, and give some reason to be cautiously optimistic for the ability of these and other agents, alone and in combination, to provide an effective immunotherapy for the disease.