Throughout National Diabetes Month, we will be sharing developments into Joslin’s unique approach for a permanent cure for type 1 diabetes. Our mission is to prevent, treat and cure diabetes so that one day there will be a world free of diabetes and its complications.
This post was originally posted on May 13, 2015.
If you have type 1 diabetes, your T cells are attacking your pancreas and beta cells, destroying your body’s ability to create insulin. This process of the body attacking itself is called autoimmunity, and it’s the underlying cause of many diseases including Celiac, Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.
Why autoimmunity occurs in each of these cases isn’t exactly clear, but Joslin researchers just got a step closer to understanding how these diseases develop. They have uncovered a gene that affects the education of T cells, providing insight into how and why the immune system begins mistaking the body’s own tissues for targets.
The gene, Clec16a, is one of a suite of genes associated with many of those autoimmune disorders, suggesting it is fundamental to the development of autoimmunity. When the researchers turned the Clec16a gene off, mice genetically prone to diabetes were protected from developing the disease.
This discovery is an important step towards understanding the development of type 1 diabetes. The more researchers know about the onset of the disease, the closer they can get to diabetes prevention.
“We think the reason it is associated with so many different diseases is because it plays a function in a very central mechanism,” said Stephan Kissler, Ph.D., Investigator in the Section on Immunobiology at Joslin Diabetes Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It’s nothing that’s specific for type 1 diabetes, it’s nothing that’s specific to multiple sclerosis. The way T cells are selected is something that’s common to all these diseases.” Continue reading –>
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