DRI Study Shows that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy May Affect Onset and Progression of Type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Antonello Pileggi headed up this study showing that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HOT) may affect the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Miami, FL – May 7, 2012, 10:00 a.m. EDT — New findings from a study led by scientists from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine show hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HOT) may prevent or slow the progression of type 1 diabetes in experimental models. The results of the study are today published online in the July 2012 issue of Diabetes and provide further evidence of the critical role of oxygen in the function and survival of insulin-producing islets.  

HOT has been used for decades to deliver pressurized oxygen to scuba divers who suffer complications of exposure after being underwater for prolonged periods of time. It is a remarkably simple, non-invasive therapy to enhance oxygenation of tissues in the body and is easily tolerated by patients because it has virtually no side effects.  

The latest study, conducted by scientists at the Diabetes Research Institute, focused on the impact of HOT on autoimmunity. Researchers delivered pressurized oxygen to NOD (non-obese diabetic) mice under a variety of conditions and, in most cases, HOT was shown to have a beneficial effect on immune cell function. In the study, NOD mice that received pressurized oxygen were 20% less likely to spontaneously develop diabetes, and those that developed diabetes did later, compared to those that did not receive the therapy.  NOD mice that were coaxed into developing diabetes quickly were 40% less likely to develop the disease when treated with HOT. And among the animals that did develop diabetes, HOT – combined with other therapies – delayed progression of the disease in many cases.

“The benefits of HOT are well documented in several medical conditions. But in the context of autoimmunity, this is the most extensive study that’s been done,” according to Camillo Ricordi, M.D., scientific director of the DRI. The project was led by Antonello Pileggi, M.D., Ph.D., director of Preclinical Cell Processing and Translational Models Program at the Cell Transplant Center of the DRI. “In this research, we’ve shown that the immunomodulatory effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are quite remarkable even though the benefits are less pronounced after diabetes onset.”

Not only did the study indicate hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps to modulate immune system responses, HOT appeared to protect beta cells and stimulate their growth. In experimental models, NOD mice receiving HOT displayed a two-fold increase in beta cell proliferation.

While this study focused on the impact of HOT on autoimmunity, the potential benefits, coupled with its non-invasive nature, make HOT an attractive therapy for additional areas of diabetes study. “We plan to explore the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in combination with immunotherapies that are partially successful in halting the progression of autoimmune diabetes, to evaluate potential synergies and the possibility to enhance efficacy while reducing side effects.  This is very relevant for a clinical translation of our approach” Pileggi added.  He also says researchers may investigate the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy – in combination with other therapies – to help reduce the inflammation associated with islet transplantation.  HOT may also be studied for its potential to enhance the ability of stem cells to mature into insulin-producing cells.

About the Diabetes Research Institute

The Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine leads the world in cure-focused research. As the largest and most comprehensive research center dedicated to curing diabetes, the DRI is aggressively working to shrink the timeline toward the discovery of a biological cure for this disease. Having already shown that diabetes can be reversed through islet transplantation, the DRI is building upon these promising outcomes by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies. The Diabetes Research Institute was created for one reason – to cure diabetes – which is and will continue to be its singular focus until that goal is reached. For the millions of people affected by diabetes, the DRI is the best hope for a cure.

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