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Louise Hall
April 8, 2007

An Australian boy is leading the global fight against Type 1 diabetes. Connor Ahles, 11, is the first person in the world to be vaccinated in an ambitious project which aims to eradicate the deadly condition in children and teenagers.

The $5 million trial will determine if insulin delivered as a nose spray will prevent or delay the onset of Type 1 diabetes in people genetically disposed to developing the condition.

Developed by researchers at the Diabetes Vaccine Development Centre (DVDC) at the University of Melbourne, the vaccine stops the immune system from attacking the pancreas cells that produce insulin, thereby allowing the body to produce its own insulin.

Initially, 13,000 people aged between four and 30 with a close blood relative with Type 1 diabetes will be part of the trial. Of those, 2 per cent - or 268 people - will be considered to be at high enough risk to receive the vaccine due to the presence of antibodies linked to the development of diabetes in their blood.

DVDC chief executive officer David Irving said if the trial was successful, the vaccine could be available worldwide within the next five to 10 years. About one in every 700 Australian children has Type 1 - or juvenile - diabetes, for which there is no cure. Sufferers must regularly inject insulin and monitor their blood sugar levels. "A world without Type 1 diabetes is what we imagine," Mr Irving said.

Trial participants will self-administer the nasal spray every day for a week and then every week for 12 months and be monitored for four years.

Connor, from Melbourne, has an aunt with Type 1 diabetes, and tests showed he was at very high risk of developing the condition. Connor's mother, Janine, said: "I see it as an opportunity. If he gets sick, it won't be as traumatic as it is for people who aren't prepared."

Royal North Shore Hospital is the first active trial centre in NSW. Those interested in joining the trial should call 1300 138 712.
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