Type 1 diabetes risk detected by T cells, research demonstrates

By Editor
21st July 2023
Research, Type 1 diabetes

Examining a specific type of immune cell in the blood can help determine individuals who are at risk of developing type 1 diabetes, scientists have said.

Academics from Scripps Research have discovered the new approach, which in the future could be used to prevent people at risk of type 1 diabetes from going on to develop the condition.

During the study, the team of scientists used blood samples to isolate T cells – a type of immune cell.

From looking at T cells, they could identify the people who were at risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Chief author, Dr Luc Teyton said: “These findings represent a big step forward because they offer the possibility of catching this autoimmune process while there is still time to prevent or greatly delay diabetes.

“Anti-islet antibody levels are poorly predictive at the individual level, and type 1 diabetes is fundamentally a T cell-driven disease.”

The research team built protein complexes to mimic the mix of immune proteins and insulin fragments that specialised T cells called CD4 T cells normally would recognize to initiate the autoimmune reaction.

They used these constructs as bait to capture anti-insulin CD4 T cells in blood samples. They then examined the gene activity within the captured T cells, and expression of proteins on the cells, to gauge their state of activation.

By doing this, they developed a classification algorithm that correctly identified which at-risk people, in a set of nine, had ongoing anti-islet autoimmunity.

Dr Teyton added: “If we can develop this into a useful method for identifying at-risk people and tracking their autoimmunity status, we not only would have a way of getting the right people into treatment, but also would be able to monitor their disease progress and evaluate potential new preventive therapies.”

To access the study, click here.

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