By Cara Roberts Murez
Health Day reporter
WEDNESDAY, October 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Scientists knew dangerous T cells lived in the pancreas of people with type 1 diabetes, but a new study shows they also settle in the pancreas of people with type 1 diabetes. good health.
Researchers at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California used a new staining technique to show where these cells had gathered in human tissue samples. They were surprised to find that even tissue from healthy people had these cells in large numbers in the pancreas.
What is the difference? Although healthy people have these immune system cells, people with type 1 diabetes have T cells that are nearby or infiltrate clumps of cells inside the pancreas. The beta cells that live in these clusters make insulin to regulate blood sugar, but in people with type 1 diabetes, T cells kill these beta cells.
“These T cells are like predators,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Matthias von Herrath, of the La Jolla Institute. “And we always thought the beta cells would die if the predator was there. But it turns out the T cells are already there. They just seem to be waiting for a signal to attack.”
Although previous research has shown that healthy people have these T cells in their bloodstream, it was not known that they would travel to the pancreas, the researchers said.
“We cannot say that these are the only culprits of type 1 diabetes,” von Herrath said in a press release from the institute. “But these T cells are the main suspects.”
What this does for diabetes research is add evidence to a theory that type 1 diabetes is not caused by T cell dysfunction attacking beta cells, but rather that the body is already making these. T cells and something in the pancreas triggers the attack.
Von Herrath said this could mean that effective treatment for type 1 diabetes should target the pancreas. The researchers plan to study the behavior of T cells and determine whether other proteins in cell clusters could cause T cell attacks.
“We still have so many questions,” said Christine Bender, study co-author and postdoctoral fellow at von Herrath Lab, in the statement.
The study was published on October 16 in Scientists progress.