Drugs originally developed to treat cancer patients have been found to have the potential to prevent and possibly reverse type 1 diabetes.
The drugs, marketed as Gleevec and Sutent, were tested on mice with the disease. In the experiment, the drugs put type 1 diabetes into remission in 80 percent of the test subjects.
It was also found that 80 percent of mice who went into remission were clear of the disease, thanks to the two drugs.
"There are very few drugs to treat type 1 diabetes, especially after disease onset, so this benefit, with a drug already proven to be safe and effective in cancer patients, is very promising," said Dr Jeffrey Bluestone, director of the Diabetes Center at University of California.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder that destroys insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. To offset the effects of the disease, sufferers are forced to administer insulin shots.
The new finding not only helps people with type 1 diabetes, but has the potential to open doors to new discoveries in auto-immune diseases.
According to 2004 numbers from Diabetes UK, there are about 1.8 million people with diabetes in the UK. Of that number, approximately 250,000 people will develop type 1 diabetes.