Tuesday 08 December 2009, 01:57

Rituximab: new hope for diabetes patients

Therapeutic potential of rituximab in type-1 diabetes

Rituximab: new hope for diabetes patients

Rituximab (a biologic antineoplastic agent) is a monoclonal antibody that directy targets the CD20 receptor of B-lymphocytes and is approved for the treatment of lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. Recent studies have shown that rituximab may be helpful in preventing the progression of type-1 diabetes as well.

Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease resulting from the destruction of beta-cells (cells producing insulin) in the endocrine pancreas. Scientists have demonstrated that both T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes are involved in causing type-1 diabetes. While autoreactive T-cells directy attack and destroy pancreatic beta-cells, B-cells are believed to play a significative role in the pathogenesis and progression of the disease by triggering autorective T-cells to attack.


Rituximab has shown to be effective in reducing the number of B-cells, without affecting other cells that play a key role in the immune system. It is through this mechanism that rituximab slows beta-cell destruction in the pancreas of patients affected by type-1 diabetes. Although by the time of diagnosis of type-1 diabetes, about 80% of beta-cells have already been destroyed, rituximab might help to slow the progression of the disease by preventing the destruction of the remaining 20 percent.


It is important to stress that rituximab should not be interpreted as a definitive curative treatment. It cannot be used to completely reverse type-1 diabetes, because the pancreas is usually too damaged by the time of diagnosis. However rituximab might be effective in newly diagnosed patients.


Actually researchers have recently demonstrated that rituximab effectively slow the destruction of pancreatic beta-cells in patients recently diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, thereby improving the management (by eliminating the need for daily insulin injections) and reducing long-term complications of the disease.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Diabetes

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