Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have announced that they have successfully identified the culprit behind type 1 diabetes. Working with diabetic mice, the researchers were able to literally see immune cells slowly destroying insulin fragments produced by the islets of Langerhans.
"Now that we've isolated dendritic cells from the pancreas, we can look at why they get into the pancreas and determine which of the materials that they pick up are most critical to causing this form of diabetes," said senior author Emil R. Unanue. "That may allow us to find ways to inhibit dendritic cell function in order to block the disorder."
AdvertisementScientists have long known that dendritic cells in the islets may be the main cause of type 1 diabetes. However this is the first time that these cells have been seen in action in such minute detail.
"We believe that in the normal individual they help maintain the health of beta cells. But in a person with autoimmune diabetes, they appear to start the problems that destroy beta cells," Unanue revealed.
The details of the study are reported online in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.