Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body shuts down the cells that produce insulin. To keep the blood sugar level, patients have to inject insulin several times a day. How to prevent the body from turning off those insulin-producing cells is not yet clear.
Rinse the bowel
But Nieuwdorp, who works at Amsterdam UMC, sees opportunities in the transplantation of poo. “You first rinse the intestine, and then you return faeces from a healthy donor or from the patient himself through a tube in the nose,” he says in an explanatory video on YouTube.
It is suspected that type 1 diabetes originates in the intestines. Because a large number of other bacteria are introduced during a poo transplant, they could make the immune system less aggressive towards the own body. It is possible that the own insulin production can then be ‘polished up’ a bit, as Nieuwdorp calls it.
The intention is to make the disease more stable, he says. “Then your blood sugar values no longer go from hot to here and you probably need less insulin, and you have fewer chronic complaints.”
More stable disease course
In the preliminary study, twenty patients were followed for a year. “They received a transplant a few times. Half had a much more stable disease course after that year.”
The method via a tube in the nose is ‘quite intense’, says Nieuwdorp. “We are thinking about how we can do that in capsules. We are now also doing that for people with chronic diarrhea.”
Less high and low blood sugar
Nieuwdorp is ‘very hopeful’ that the method will bear fruit. He hopes that this will help patients to have fewer high and low blood sugar levels, so that they suffer less from their disease in the short and long term.
An exploratory study, the results of which will be published later this month in the journal Gut, is promising, several experts say. The Diabetes Fund and Stichting DON have therefore decided to donate one million euros to the follow-up research, which will take five years.