Following a recent path-breaking research, scientists have been able to develop a preventative therapy for Type 1 diabetes. The preventive mechanism works by making the body's killer immune cells tolerate insulin-producing cells, which otherwise would be attacked and destroyed by them prior to disease onset.
Type 1 diabetes is a serious autoimmune condition, in which the body attacks its own insulin producing cells and is characterised by a sudden and dramatic onset, usually in youth.
In the study, PhD student Eliana Mariño and Dr Shane Grey, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, have demonstrated how a particular molecule may be used in future as a preventative therapy.
In earlier studies, researchers demonstrated that groups of B cells migrate to the pancreas and pancreatic lymph nodes, presenting specific insulin antigen to T cells. In other words, B cells go to the disease site and tell T cells to kill the cells that produce insulin.
"Taking that work further, our current study looks at different ways of subduing B cells, and how that affects development of the disease," said Grey.
While working with mice that spontaneously develop Type 1 diabetes, researchers found that by blocking BAFF (a hormone that controls survival of B cells) prior to onset, none of the mice developed diabetes.
"This is a remarkable finding, as other B cell depletion methods tested elsewhere have just delayed or reduced disease incidence," said Eliana.
They found that the depletion of B cells caused an increase in the number of immune system regulators (a subclass of T cells known as T regulatory cells).
And if B cells are removed from the picture for a while, one apparently allows T regulatory cells to function as they should, subduing killer T cells and somehow making them tolerant of the insulin producing cells.
The molecule used by Grey and colleagues to inhibit BAFF is known as BCMA, and is already being used in clinical trials for other autoimmune diseases, such as Sjogren's Syndrome and Lupus.
The findings of the study are published online in the international journal Diabetes.