January 19, 2012

What T-cells cause Type 1 Diabetes?

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It  is accepted that type 1 diabetes is caused by the misfiring of T-cells attacking a person’s beta cells. However when we ask why this is happening – doctors have always resorted to saying we don’t know. This may be about to end, according to new research published in Nature Immunology.

The study shows the first ever scientific explanation of the mechanism by which killer T-cells can attack pancreatic beta cells. The receptors attacked by the T-cells help researchers understand what type of virus or foreign body might provoke the mistaken target.

A mystery still exists to justify why the rogue T-cells are not picked-out of the body after the initial attack is over. The lingering T-cells cause trouble by attacking the insulin-producing cells.

Many people with type 1 diabetes can recall having chicken pox, a flu-like sickness, or even a vaccine several months prior to the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Although this has been empirical observation – this is good reason to find value in this study.

Certain illnesses may cause the body to dispatch T-cells with protein-specific targets similar to pancreatic beta cells. In this case – a high risk group of patients may be identified and followed to ensure the type of attack leading to insulin-dependent diabetes can be caught early enough to treat and possibly prevent, in the  future.

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