The role of a type of T cell in type 1 diabetes has been identified and researchers say that this could help in new treatment methods for childhood diabetes.
Also known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease primarily affecting children and young adults.
In patients with type 1 diabetes, the body attacks itself by destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas that regulate glucose, or blood sugar.
The research was led by Rusung Tan, a Pathology professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine and co-head of the Immunity in Health and Disease research cluster at CFRI.
The team identified the increased presence of Th17 cells in children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
"T cells are white blood cells and key members of the immune system that control infections," said Tan.
"In healthy individuals, Th17 cells provide a strong defence against bacteria and viruses by guiding the immune system to strongly attack infected targets within our bodies," he added.
Treatments designed to block Th17 cells are in clinical trials for these diseases.
"The elevated levels of Th17 cells in type 1 diabetes patients suggest that these cells may also play a key role in the early development of this disease in young patients," said Tan.
"This discovery opens the door to new treatments for childhood diabetes that target Th17 cells," added Tan.