January 19, 2012

Killer Cells and Diabetes

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Killer T-cells protect the body from disease, but a new study suggests that these same cells, created to protect, may be inadvertently destroying cells that produce insulin for the body.

Professor Andy Sewell, an expert in human T-cells from Cardiff University´s School of Medicine and his diabetic expert colleagues, among them Professor Mark Peakman from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at King´s College and Guy´s and St. Thomas´ NHS Foundation Trust conducted a study to better understand the role of T-cells in the development of Type 1 diabetes.

"Type 1 diabetes is a result of the body´s own immune system attacking and destroying the cells in the pancreas that manufacture the hormone insulin. Insulin controls blood sugar levels and a lack of insulin is fatal if untreated," Professor Sewell was quoted as saying. Sewell and his team isolated a T-cell from a patient with Type 1 diabetes to view a unique molecular interaction which results in the killing of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

"Our findings show how killer T-cells might play an important role in autoimmune diseases like diabetes and we´ve secured the first ever glimpse of the mechanism by which killer T-cells can attack our body cells to cause disease," Sewell added.

Professor Peakman, co-author of the study, was quoted as saying, "This first sight of how killer T-cells make contact with the cells that make insulin is very enlightening, and increases our understanding of how Type 1 diabetes may rise. Professors Sewell and Peakman and their team all hope that by gaining a better understanding of this process it will put them in a much stronger position to devise new ways to prevent or even halt the disease.

"This knowledge will be used in the future to help us predict who might get the disease and also to develop new approaches to prevent it. Our aim is to catch the disease early before too many insulin-producing cells have been damaged," said Peakman.

SOURCE: Cardiff University, January 2012