Immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes (T1D) has previously focused on suppressing the autoimmune response against pancreatic beta cells to preserve endogenous insulin production and regulate glucose levels. With increased attention toward combination therapy strategies, studies indicate the multifunctional cytokine interleukin-21 (IL-21) may be a suitable target as an immuno-modulatory arm, while glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists may be appropriate as a beta cell protective arm in combination therapy for T1D. We report here that treatment with anti-IL-21 monoclonal antibody delays diabetes onset in the spontaneous non-obese diabetic (NOD) and NOD.scid adoptive transfer models, while its effect in reversing recent-onset hyperglycemia is limited. However, the combination of anti-IL-21 plus the GLP-1R agonist liraglutide is effective in reversing established disease compared to either monotherapy in both the NOD and rat insulin promotor-lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus glycoprotein (RIP-LCMV-GP) models of autoimmune diabetes. Enhanced efficacy is particularly evident in severely hyperglycemic mice, with return to normoglycemia remaining stable for the majority of mice even after therapy is withdrawn. Importantly, increased beta cell proliferation does not appear to be the predominant mechanism. In conclusion, combination therapy with anti-IL-21 and liraglutide is able to consistently reverse disease in mouse models of T1D. The observed effects rival the most effective experimental disease-modifying treatments tested in preclinical studies.
Keywords: Combination therapy; GLP-1; IL-21; Immunotherapy; Mouse models; Type 1 diabetes.
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