In the study led by Alessio Fasano, M.D., professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology and director of the University of Maryland Mucosal Biology Research Center, researchers used an animal model of diabetes and found a way to prevent the disease by changing the permeability of the intestinal wall.
Earlier research by Dr. Fasano and colleagues led to the discovery of the human protein zonulin. They observed that zonulin regulates the permeability of the intestines by controlling the opening and closing of specialised structures that act like gates between cells.
Dr. Fasano's group also discovered that zonulin is produced in very large amounts in people who have autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers performed their latest study on rats that were genetically prone to develop Type 1 diabetes.
"With this study, we've been able to identify a way to prevent zonulin from causing leakage from the intestines as it does in people with these autoimmune diseases.”
Dr. Fasano and his research team used diabetes-prone rats to test the effectiveness of a zonulin inhibitor peptide called AT-1001, which is known to prevent zonulin from regulating intestinal permeability.
The peptide prevented the development of diabetes in the vast majority of the animals tested. Only 27 percent of those that were given water containing AT-1001 developed diabetes. "In essence, we saw that this peptide stopped the sequence of events that leads to diabetes,” Dr. Fasano says.
Dr. Fasano adds that this significant discovery could eventually lead to the development of an oral medication to arrest autoimmune diseases in the early stages.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Maryland School of Medicine