Taking on Type 1 Diabetes

FRESNO, Calif.

When 16-year-old Samantha Coon started losing her appetite a few months ago, no one realized how serious it would become.

"I just went downhill fast," Samantha Coon, told Action News.

"She just got sicker and sicker, and we couldn't figure out exactly what was going wrong," Judy Burke, Samantha's mom, said.

Samantha now knows she has type-one diabetes. T-cells in the pancreas destroy beta cells that produce insulin.

"They told me I would be taking shots pretty much for the rest of my life," Samantha said. " I'm not afraid of needles, so shooting myself with needles isn't that hard."

Now, in a clinical trial, patients in their first 100 days of type 1 diabetes, who are still producing some insulin, get different kinds of shots. Intramuscular injections of a drug called Alefacept.

"What we're trying to do is see if we can delay the progression of type 1 diabetes," Eric Felner, M.D., MSCR, an associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, said.

Alefacept has been approved to reduce destructive t-cell activity in another auto-immune disorder called plaque psoriasis. Researchers believe it could have a similar effect on diabetes.

"If we can provide a medication or some kind of intervention that will prevent those cells from being destroyed, then the hope is that these patients will continue being able to produce insulin on their own and not have diabetes," Dr. Felner said.

For Samantha, it's too soon to know if the treatment's working, but she knows no matter what, she'll be ok.

"I'm still me," Samantha said.

Phase two clinical trials for Alefacept are now underway at 15 centers around the U.S. This is one of several drug trials targeting patients in the early stages of type 1 diabetes.

If you would like more information, please contact: Kerry Ludlam Assistant Director, Media Relations Emory Health Sciences Communications Kerry.ludlam@emory.edu

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