Type 1 Diabetes Stopped: How Scientists Did It

EmaxHealth Health News

By Deborah Mitchell for EmaxHealth.com

No one is sure exactly why it happens, but in some people, and at an early age, the immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic beta cells until the body no longer can produce insulin. But not knowing exactly why it happens did not stop one group of scientists from stopping type 1 diabetes in mice.

Can we stop type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, previously called juvenile diabetes because it first appears during childhood or in young adults, is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops making insulin. About 5 percent of the nearly 26 million children and adults with diabetes in the United States have type 1 disease, which is equivalent to about 1 in every 400 children and adolescents.

Finding a way to put the brakes on the development of type 1 diabetes in humans would be a monumental breakthrough, and this new study from Karolinska Institute in Sweden is a significant start. The brakes were applied to genetically susceptible mice by injecting them with specially prepared cells.

Scientists have known that immune system cells called macrophages are involved in the destruction of beta cells. However, macrophages don’t always attack beta cells: they can be instructed to protect rather than destroy. So the scientists looked for the cells that give the instructions, and those are immune cells called cytokines.

According to the lead researcher, Robert Harris, he and his team discovered which cytokines send signals to macrophages to protect rather than to destroy. “We managed to achieve this aim, defining a novel combination of cytokines that confer on macrophages the ability to protect mice from developing Type 1 diabetes.”

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