BOSTON, Mass. (July 26, 2009) Crack open the latest medical textbook to the chapter on type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes, and you'll be hard pressed to find the term "immunology" anywhere. This is because metabolic conditions and immunologic conditions are, with a few exceptions, distant cousins.
However, a group of papers appearing in Nature Medicine, two of which are from Harvard Medical School researchers, have linked type 2 diabetes with immunology in a way that might persuade leading researchers to start viewing them as siblings.
In the first study, researchers used two common over-the-counter allergy medications to reduce both obesity and type 2 diabetes in mice. The medications, called Zaditor and cromolyn, stabilize a population of inflammatory immune cells called mast cells. In the second study, researchers found that a kind of white blood cell called a regulatory T cell, once thought to manage only other white blood cells, also acts as a liaison between the metabolic and immune systemsin this case, controlling inflammation in fat tissue. Fat tissue from obese and insulin-resistant mice and people is marked by a dramatic absence of this cell type, in dramatic contrast to an already reported overabundance in fat tissue of inflammatory immune cells called macrophages.
"It seems that we're seeing the emergence of a new biomedical discipline: immunometabolism," says HMS professor of pathology Diane Mathis, senior author on one of the papers.
Both papers will appear online July 26 in Nature Medicine.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both involve abnormalities in the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, but their root causes are completely different. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the pancreas, destroying its ability to produce insulin. In contrast, type 2 diabetes is a strictly metabolic condition in which cells g
|Contact: David Cameron|
Harvard Medical School