Australian scientists prevent onset of type 1 diabetes by making immune cells tolerate insulin-producing cells.
JDRF-funded researchers Ms Eliana Mariño and Dr Shane Grey have demonstrated the cells of the human immune system can be manipulated to prevent type 1 diabetes.
The body’s immune cells, or white blood cells, include B cells and T cells. B cells make antibodies and present ‘antigens’ to T cells, allowing them to recognise and kill invaders.
Previous research by the authors has showed that groups of B cells migrate to the pancreas and pancreatic lymph nodes and tell T cells to kill the cells that produce insulin.
Working with mice that spontaneously develop type 1 diabetes, the team used a special molecule called BCMA to block a hormone responsible for controlling the survival of B cells, called BAFF. As the B cells were removed using this technique, a special type of T cell (called regulatory T cells) increased and prevented the autoimmune attack on the pancreatic cells.
They found that after this treatment, none of the mice developed type 1 diabetes – a remarkable finding, as other B cell depletion methods have just delayed or reduced disease incidence.
The molecule BCMA is already being used in clinical trials for other autoimmune diseases, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome and Lupus and this result provides support for the development of a human type 1 diabetes trial.
This work was conducted under the auspices of the Diabetes Vaccine Development Centre (DVDC) at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.
Diabetes published online April 29 2009