Could Pig Worms Lead to the Cure for Type 1?

By GabbyPA Latest Reply 2013-03-12 22:49:29 -0500
Started 2013-03-12 18:41:31 -0500

This sounds a little gross, but the idea is very interesting. It is amazing what parts of science offer us hope.

By Diabetes Health

Nadia Al-Samarrie
Mar 7, 2013
Research into a cure for type 1 diabetes proceeds on several fronts. One interesting approach is seeking ways to manipulate the autoimmune system to prevent the body's mistaken destruction of pancreatic beta cells. Another tack is the transplantation of pancreatic tissue, either from human cadavers or carefully isolated "clean" pigs that have been specially raised for the purpose.

It turns out pigs will be crucial to both approaches. Burlington, Mass.-based Coronado Biosciences is looking into using pig worm ova as shields against autoimmune attacks on the pancreatic cells.

In a recent interview with me, Karin Hehenberger, MD, PhD, chief medical officer at Coronado Biosciences, explained the fascinating thinking behind this line of research, called "Trichuris Suis Ova Suspension" (TSO).

Nadia: In your research with Coronado, you're using pig worms to modulate the immune system?

Dr. Hehenberger: Yes, our company is in clinical trials using pig worm ova. We place the eggs in a 15 mL saline solution that we give orally to patients every two weeks. In humans, the ova develop into microscopic larvae, but don't-and cannot-become worms. That's because pigs are their natural host and humans are not, so they can't really colonize a human.

But what they do is modulate the autoimmune system. For the two or three weeks that they live in the human intestine, their presence makes the autoimmune system focus on and attack them rather than other targets, such as pancreatic beta cells. In a way, they act as a drug patch that diverts the autoimmune system.

In people with autoimmune disease, instead of fighting outside dangers, which we normally do when there's an infection, for example a virus or a bacteria, they fight their own bodies. There's a switch where something goes wrong in the development of the immune system in very young people. It may even start in utero. So the autoimmune system needs to be retrained. In TSO, we're introducing an outside agent for the autoimmune system to deal with, with the result that we get a decrease of the pro-inflammatory markers usually associated with autoimmune disease and an increase in certain good markers that indicate the autoimmune system is doing its intended job.

Nadia: Why dose every two weeks? Wouldn't it be better to find a way to keep the ova in the body permanently?

Read more of the interview:

2 replies

jayabee52 2013-03-12 22:49:29 -0500 Report

I say that this might be a "beware of unintended cosequences" situation. Life finds a way to adapt. If the normal host is pigs, what is to say that in the right situation, the ova "learn" how to adapt to human physiology? Then we have a sub species of new infective agent. Just saying!