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Photopheresis at onset of type 1 diabetes: a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial


BACKGROUND In recent years photopheresis, an extracorporeal form of photochemotherapy using psoralen and ultraviolet A irradiation of leucocytes, has been claimed to be an effective form of immunomodulation.

AIM To evaluate its effect in type 1 diabetes we performed a double blind, controlled study using placebo tablets and sham pheresis in the control group.

METHODS A total of 49 children, aged 10–18 years of age at diagnosis of type 1 diabetes were included; 40 fulfilled the study and were followed for three years (19 received active treatment with photopheresis and 21 placebo treatment).

RESULTS The actively treated children secreted significantly more C peptide in urine during follow up than control children. C peptide values in serum showed corresponding differences between the two groups. The insulin dose/kg body weight needed to achieve satisfactory HbA1c values was always lower in the photopheresis group; there was no difference between the groups regarding HbA1c values during follow up. The treatment was well accepted except for nausea (n = 3) and urticaria (n = 1) in the actively treated group. There were no differences regarding weight or height, or episodes of infection between the two groups during follow up.

CONCLUSION Photopheresis does have an effect in addition to its possible placebo effect, shown as a weak but significant effect on the disease process at the onset of type 1 diabetes, an effect still noted after three years of follow up.

  • photopheresis
  • diabetes
  • photochemotherapy
  • placebo

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