JUN 06, 2017 1:24 PM PDT

Protecting Beta Cells to Treat Type 1 Diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

A new way to treat - and maybe prevent - type 1 diabetes revolves around protecting beta cells, the cells produced by the pancreas to make insulin. Jackson Laboratory researchers conducted a new study published in the Journal of Immunology focused on finding the best way to provide this protection.

Human-stem-cell-derived beta cells that have formed islet-like clusters in a mouse. Credit: Harvard Magazine

The pancreas produces beta cells to make insulin, which in turn transports glucose to bring energy to cells all over the body. Beta cells are the primary target of autoreactive T cells activated by B cells during the development of type 1 diabetes (T1D), which is why people with this condition have to receive insulin injections.

When beta cells damaged by autoreactive T cells can’t produce insulin to carry glucose like normal, glucose builds up in the blood, nerves, and blood vessels, and organs damage characteristic of T1D results. For their anti-T1D approach, Jackson Laboratory researchers are going straight to the source: B cells.

“If you can target those antigen-presenting B-cells, that could be potentially a very effective disease intervention," said lead author David Serreze, PhD. "Our approach targets an appropriate population of the B cells among the white blood cells, resulting in inactivation of the cascade of autoimmunity against the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, and hence subsequently blocking diabetes development."

While targeting the B cells that ultimately activate autoreactive T cells would protect insulin-producing beta cells, there are other B cells that provide healthy actions that scientists wouldn’t want squandered. An ideal approach would be to block the B cells that activate autoreactive T cells without destroying the healthy B cells that activate healthy T cell responses to invading pathogens.

Serreze’s study applied a gene manipulation approach to find the right target for the right B cells. They used non-obese diabetic mice treated with a B cell pathway inhibitor called AID/RAD51. The mice treated with this inhibitor had larger populations of B cells that suppressed autoreactive T cell responses instead of activating them, a result that also greatly reduced T1D development compared to mice who only received a placebo.

"To combat T1D, we're taking out this whole pathway to block autoreactive cells. But on the flip side, you may want to keep this pathway active if you want to keep antitumor immune responses in place,” Serreze explained. “Ultimately, this approach could potentially be applicable to any autoimmune disease that has a B-cell component."

Source: Jackson Laboratory

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 07, 2021
Cancer
New Drug Combo Eliminates Pancreatic Cancer in Mice
AUG 07, 2021
New Drug Combo Eliminates Pancreatic Cancer in Mice
A combination of three immunotherapy drugs can eliminate pancreatic tumors in mice. The study was published in Canc ...
AUG 10, 2021
Immunology
An Immune Molecule Helps Create 'Good' Fat
AUG 10, 2021
An Immune Molecule Helps Create 'Good' Fat
Not all fat is ‘bad’—there’s white fat that builds up when excess calories are consumed. But, th ...
AUG 17, 2021
Immunology
Does Fasting Help Protect Against Infection?
AUG 17, 2021
Does Fasting Help Protect Against Infection?
Most people feeling under the weather, especially those with a fever, tend to lose their appetites. When recovering from ...
AUG 18, 2021
Neuroscience
Histamine Regulates Serotonin Levels in Depression
AUG 18, 2021
Histamine Regulates Serotonin Levels in Depression
Heightened histamine levels from inflammation inhibit the effects of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin in t ...
SEP 08, 2021
Health & Medicine
Gene Linked to Endometriosis Could Lead to Non-Hormonal Treatment Options
SEP 08, 2021
Gene Linked to Endometriosis Could Lead to Non-Hormonal Treatment Options
Researchers from the University of Oxford found an association between neuropeptide S receptor 1 (NPSR1) gene variants a ...
SEP 13, 2021
Microbiology
Flu Season Looms Large as World May Have an 'Immunity Debt'
SEP 13, 2021
Flu Season Looms Large as World May Have an 'Immunity Debt'
Scientists are beginning to speculate about the possibility that the flu season this year will be particularly bad becau ...
Loading Comments...