The trial of the vaccine has been launched this morning at the University of Melbourne, and the researchers say if all goes well it could be as significant as the recently approved vaccine for cervical cancer.
In Melbourne, Samantha Donovan reports.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Type 1 diabetes is the least common form of the disease. Only 10-15 per cent of people with diabetes have it. It's marked by an inability of the pancreas to produce insulin, because the cells that make insulin have been destroyed by the body's own immune system. That's usually triggered by something like a viral infection, which leads the immune system to destroy the cells. The insulin must be replaced by daily injections.
Unlike type 2 diabetes, which can be caused by poor diet and lack of exercise, the cause of type 1 diabetes isn't fully understood. But researchers say there's a strong family link.
At the moment, there's nothing to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes, but the trial of this new nasal spray vaccine offers some hope. And as Professor Warwick Anderson from the National Health and Medical Research Council explains, insulin is the vaccine's main weapon too.
WARWICK ANDERSON: If the insulin is applied, of all places, to the nose, to the nasal passages, that an immune response is set up that actually prevents, or seems to prevent the insulin from attacking the cells itself.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: So what will it involve for the young people on the trail, in terms of using this nasal spray?
WARWICK ANDERSON: Yeah, well, what they'll have to do is once a day for a couple of months, to inhale a little bit, like you do from some of the inhalers we're so used to using in hay fever and so on, just to inhale a little bit of insulin, it's a very tiny amount, it's nothing like the amounts that you inject. They'll inhale it and then after the first little while, keep doing that once a week for a year.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Three hundred children and young adults will take part in the trial. They'll all be considered at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes because of a family link.
Twenty-four-year-old Glen van Ostrom is a candidate. His sister Danielle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last year at the same age. And he says that after seeing his sister's life turned upside down, he's hoping he's not diagnosed as well.
GLEN VAN OSTROM: So, for her it meant that all of a sudden she totally needed to change her eating habits, and even her drinking habits, and your exercise regime, all those kind of things, and also it means that just before taking your meal you have to inject your insulin. So, she devised a way to sort of do that under the table, and underneath her top, so that she could eat her meal and continue to function in the world.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Glen van Ostrom has given blood today to see if he's at risk and can participate in the trial.
GLEN VAN OSTROM: If I do end up being involved with it, it makes me of a 10 to 15 times higher risk than other people of actually contracting it. So, in some ways it wouldn't be that good, I'd much rather for them to say, you're not required for the trial, thanks a lot. But if I am involved in the trial it's sort of exciting in the sense that maybe I'm doing something to help prevent it for myself, but also help the cause for everyone else.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Australian of the Year, Professor Ian Frazer, who led the research which led to the revolutionary cervical cancer vaccine, is involved in setting up of this trial.
And Warwick Anderson is optimistic that this research, led by Dr Len Harrison, may be a similar success.
WARWICK ANDERSON: Wouldn't that be wonderful. I really hope that we are able to say that, but I am a scientist, and you know, we have to wait and see what this trial turns out. We're doing an experiment, and we need to wait to find out.
ELEANOR HALL: And that's Professor Warwick Anderson, the CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council, speaking to Samantha Donovan in Melbourne.
source - ABC Online