Peptide immunotherapies in Type 1 diabetes: Lessons from animal models

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Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (Type 1 diabetes, T1D) is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by the destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells by proinflammatory autoreactive T cells. In the past, several therapeutic approaches have been exploited by immunologists aiming to regulate the autoimmune response; this can occur by deleting lymphocyte subsets and/or re-establishing immune tolerance via activation of regulatory T cells. The use of broad immunosuppressive drugs was the first approach to be explored. Subsequently, antibody-based immunotherapies failed to discriminate between autoreactive versus non-autoimmune effectors. Antigen-based immunotherapy is a third approach developed to manipulate beta cell autoimmunity. This approach allows the selective targeting of disease-relevant T cells, while leaving the remainder of the immune system intact. Animal models have been successfully employed to prevent or treat T1D by injection of either the self proteins or peptides derived from them. Peptide immunotherapies have been mainly experimented in the NOD mouse spontaneous model of disease. In this review we therefore report the main approaches that rely on the use of peptides obtained from relevant autoantigens such as glutamic acid decarboxylase, isoform 65 (GAD65), insulin, proinsulin and islet-specific glucose 6 phosphatase catalytic subunit-related protein (IGRP). Protective peptides have proven to be effective in treating or delaying the diabetic process. We also highlight the main difficulties encountered in extrapolating data to guide clinical translational investigations in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-586
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • Animal models
  • Autoimmunity
  • Disease prevention
  • Peptide immunotherapy
  • Type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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