Has the type 1 diabetes puzzle been solved?

Posted by JOrchard on 26 April, 2016

A complete picture of the areas that the immune system attacks to cause type 1 diabetes has finally been revealed by scientists.

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The study which was publishes in the journal Diabetes, discovered the fifth and final critical target at which the immune system errantly takes aim.

The team who conducted the research from are from the University of Lincoln and they say that the findings could help develop new ways to prevent and treat the disease. Diabetes UK have said that the findings were “impressive”.

Dermatonics - Preventing Diabetic Foot Pain and Cracked Heels 

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the beta cells - the cells that make and produce insulin, which is needed to keep blood sugar levels under control. 

Studies looking at the unique antibodies made by patients with type 1 showed that there were 5 ‘targets’ that the immune system would look to attack. But the problem has been trying to work out exactly where these targets are. Studies from a while ago discovered some of the targets but the missing piece of the jigsaw has proved elusive for over two decades.

Dr Michael Christie, the person who led the research, has said this about the findings: "With this new discovery, we have now finished identifying what the immune system is targeting - we have the complete picture.” 

The five targets are:

  • Insulin
  • IA-2
  • Glutamate decarboxylase 
  • Zinc transporter-8
  • and finally, tetraspanin-7

Those that are more technically named, are massively involved in secreting or storing insulin.

Dermatonics - Preventing Diabetic Foot Pain and Cracked Heels 

Knowledge of some of these targets is already being used in a trial which is taking place at King’s College London. The trial is aiming to stall the progression of type 1 diabetes.

But Dr Michael Christie has stated that now the complete picture has been revealed, this could massively help transform the care for type 1 patients.

Dr Christie said: "Once the immune system decides it wants to get rid of something it's very hard to stop, so diabetes has proved to be a difficult disease to prevent.

"So we're hoping that, by having identified the major targets in the disease, we can find ways to prevent it by blocking the immune response to these five proteins without leaving that person vulnerable to infections.

"With recent improvements in our understanding of the disease I'm very hopeful we'll develop a treatment now; I have a lot more confidence than even five years ago."

Dermatonics - Preventing Diabetic Foot Pain and Cracked Heels 

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